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A Bonnie 'Lassie'

Actor Jonathan Mason and Lassie from "Lassie" 2005
Classic Media
"Lassie," a film remake based on the classic book, movie and TV series, premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival this weekend. And, after seeing it, I now know what the single cruelest thing you can do to a lonely school-aged kid is ...

… sell his dog.

The time is 1938, just before WWII, and families living near a coal mine in Yorkshire, England, have just received the terrible news that Dad has been laid off.

Nine-year-old Jonathan Mason plays the poor little British kid, Joe, whose parents (played by Samantha Morton and John Lynch) are so hard up for money that they're forced to sell the family dog, Lassie. But what makes this decision so cruel is that they don't tell the poor little chap that they're doing it. Poof! One day the adorable collie is gone.

When Joe leaves school one afternoon and Lassie isn't waiting outside the school gates like she usually does, Joe runs home in a panic and finds his parents seated ominously at the kitchen table. They quibble over who should tell the boy what has happened.

Hey, I don't blame them for passing this hot potato. Would you want to tell your son that his only friend in the world has been sold for about $20 to put food on the table? I know the cause was just, but I can't forgive them for not letting him say goodbye.

Meanwhile, Lassie has a new owner, the Duke of Rudling (Peter O'Toole), a rich guy who owns the mine. He bought the good looking young pup for his spoiled granddaughter, but even the little girl can tell that the canine longs to go home to her rightful owner.

And so Lassie's journey back to Joe begins. "Lassie" is directed by Charles Sturridge and was beautifully shot on location in England and Scotland. It's a sweet story about friendship and determination that will melt even the coldest heart. The freckle-faced Mason is a fine little actor who portrays the pain of losing his best friend like an old pro, nailing dewy-eyed and crestfallen.

A real dog named Lassie plays Lassie in the film, along with other dogs. Apparently Lassie is a descendant of Pal, the dog who appeared in the 1943 film starring Roddy McDowall and Elizabeth Taylor. Peter Dinklage ("The Station Agent") makes an appearance as a street performer who helps the dog along her way. And Steve Pemberton ("The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy") plays Rudling's nasty assistant who captures Lassie each time she escapes.

By AMY BONAWITZ