Our bond with movie animals

Movies that touch our hearts often involve animals. They can leave us smiling or leave us crying. No surprise, since people often have strong bonds with the critters that live around us, and that includes dogs, cats, horses, bears, sea lions and dolphins.

Good films that stir our emotions are worth watching and can spark something inside us. With that said, some of the staff at The Garden Island are sharing their favorite animal movie.

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The Sandlot

Now, this is really about a group of boys growing up in a small town who love playing baseball and how the ball field and the game draw them together one summer. But what makes this film work is when newcomer Scott Smalls, who doesn’t know any better, takes a baseball signed by Babe Ruth from his stepfather’s study so they can practice. When the ball is hit into a fenced backyard patrolled by a monster English Mastiff they call “The Beast,” the story unfolds as they plot to retrieve the ball.

The boys try a number of methods, all of which humorously fail, and they have about given up hope when the fastest of the group, “Benny the Jet” Rodriguez, jumps into the yard, grabs the ball and runs — with The Beast in pursuit. Following an unlikely but fun chase scene that ends with a fence collapsing on the dog, Smalls and Benny rescue their nemesis, which, it turns out, is quite friendly and whose owner played professional baseball, happens to have a ball autographed by the entire 1927 Yankees to replace the destroyed Ruth ball, and befriends the boys.

The Sandlot is touching tribute to how wonderful summers could be in our youth. In this case, though, it’s The Beast who steals the show.

— Bill Buley

Jaws

Is a shark an animal? I’ll have to double check that. But this 1975 movie has had such a profound effect on me, I still find myself looking behind me, underneath me, every which way when I’m swimming in lakes, let along the ocean.

If you don’t know by now, the blockbuster is about a giant man-eating great white shark that attacks beachgoers on Amity Island, a fictional New England summer resort town. The beachfront stalking prompts the local police chief, played by a skittish, battle wary Roy Scheider, to hunt it down with the help of a marine biologist and a professional shark hunter.

What makes Jaws so terrifying is that the mammoth shark dominates the movie but with little screen time. It’s the ominous shadow the creature casts over the entire film — amplified by its nah-nah, nah-nah soundtrack — that makes even looking over the water scary.

And when it emerges from the surface to eat boats or terrorize swimmers, it seems to come out of nowhere. I’m not sure how a 40-foot beast can appear so suddenly, but it strikes me as crazy realistic. You’re swimming peacefully, and then ….

I’ve never looked at the water — any water — the same way.

— Tom Hasslinger

Homeward Bound

The movie Homeward Bound was my favorite animal movie growing up as a child. I can still remember the Himalayan cat Sassy and the pitbull Chance making fun of each other as the animals journeyed to find their way home with their golden retriever friend Shadow.

In addition to making me crack a smile with their mischief, the pets taught me about the importance of appreciating what you have when you have it and always being there for those you love.

One of my favorite parts in the movie was when Shadow sees his owner, Peter, from a distance and Peter runs toward him, reuniting with his canine companion.

No other animal movie I’ve seen comes close to representing the loyalty, friendship, humor and love that can exist between a pet and their owner.

— Averie Soto

Babe

My all-time favorite animal movie would have to be “Babe,” the story of a pig raised by sheepdogs, who ultimately ends up competing in a sheepdog competition.

As children, my sister and I would play it on repeat, all day, on our VCR (an ancient videocassette recorder).

The movie has it all: From uplifting moments that will melt your heart to scenes that will leave you depressed, confused and infuriated.

In 1996, “Babe” won an Oscar for best effects, visual effects and was nominated for best picture, best director and bestwriting to name a few.

James Cromwell, who was nominated for best actor in a supporting role, portrayed Arthur H. Hoggett: a stoic farm owner who acquires Babe as a piglet early on in the film.

Cromwell’s performance coupled with tight visual effects and an intriguing story makes this a must-see movie for anyone.

— Alden Alayvilla

The Big Blue

The imaginative bond between man and dolphin depicted in the 1988 English language French film “The Big Blue” is perhaps more memorable than the plot.

The heavily dramatized story of a real-life rivalry between champion free divers Jacques Mayol and Enzo Maiorca takes a backseat to a dreamlike friendship that flowers between Mayol, the more humble of the two divers, and a dolphin he liberates from an aquarium.

The suggestion that a dolphin and a man could playfully glide together in deep sea waters like a pair of synchronized dancers might seem far-fetched. But when you’re watching this film about the romantic beauty of the sea it feels as if that’s how things ought to be, at least for a man who lives so much of his life exploring beneath the ocean’s surface.

The movie — also released as “Le Grand Bleu” in some countries — is full of magic, and plenty of realistic human drama on land to keep all the deep sea whimsy in check.

— Brittany Lyte

Ice Age

If you really wanna go brain-dead, kick up your feet and have a good laugh this is just the right amount of funny without being too corny. I’ll admit, Ice Age does have it’s corny moments but that’s what really gives us a good laugh. Since the very first “Ice Age” in 2002, Blue Sky Studios has been putting a giggle in our bellies. I must have watched all of these films and there is one scheduled to be released in July 2016, “Ice Age: Collision Course.” But out of all those animal movies, why is Ige Age my favorite? Well because this movie doesn’t only give you a good chuckle, it teaches you about friendship, love, parenthood and that through it all, you can do anything by not giving up and sticking together with those who care. Your heart will be touched, your feel the desire to laugh and your mind will be craving for more. That’s what makes these movies just right, it has a little bit of everything.

— Chloe Marchant

Free Willy

Naming a favorite film is an impossible task. There are simply too many.

Digging deep into the depths of my childhood, one flick did stand out among the masses of cartoon mice, computer-animated fish, live-action talking turtles and golden retrievers who can hit free throws on the basketball court.

The film revolves around an abandoned and troubled youth, Jesse, who is forced to do community service after getting caught stealing food and vandalizing a neighborhood theme park.

While paying his debt to society and dealing with his distrust of his foster parents, he befriends the park’s unruly captured orca whale, Willy. Though they quickly bond and the whale becomes tame enough to perform tricks during shows, one frightening and costly performance causes the park owner to conspire to kill Willy and claim money from the insurance policy.

Upon discovering the owner’s intent, Jesse and the whale’s caretakers hatch a plan to release Willy into the wild and reunite it with its pod, or family.

Through themes of friendship and family, Free Willy (1993) pulls at the heartstrings.

— Nick Celario

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