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Puppy Love

AnnaSophia Robb, who plays the young girl in Because of Winn-Dixie, says her character just wanted to love and be loved. Leave it to an orphaned dog to show her how.

Like the precious, precocious little girl she plays in Because of Winn-Dixie, a warmhearted, family-friendly film opening Friday, 11-year-old AnnaSophia Robb just wants everybody to be happy. "Opal has a lot of love in her heart," AnnaSophia says of her character in the movie, "and she just wants to give it to people."

The film, based on the best-selling book of the same title, tells the story of a lonely young girl, Opal, who adopts an orphaned dog she has named Winn-Dixie—for the supermarket where she found him. Together, Opal and the dog bring together hurting people in a small Florida town—including her own relationship with her father, a pastor (played by Jeff Daniels) whose wife left him years earlier and who doesn't really know how to connect with his daughter. "He loves Opal so much," says Daniels, "but there's a wall between them. And then this funny stray dog shows up and just pounds away until the wall starts to crumble. Because of Winn-Dixie is much more than a film for the entire family; it's a movie about the power of communication and universal feelings of love."

"Opal and Winn-Dixie have something in common," adds AnnaSophia, a homeschooled fifth-grader who lives with her parents in Denver. "She doesn't have a mother, and he doesn't have a home. They both want somebody to love, and somebody to love them. And, as a team, they begin to realize that other people just might want the same thing."

The dog guides Opal into the lives of other hurting people—an eccentric librarian (Eva Marie Saint), a poor recluse (Cicely Tyson), a down-on-his-luck pet store clerk (Dave Matthews)—and magic things begin to happen: "Opal needs somebody to love," sayd AnnaSophia, "and Winn-Dixie does too. Then he ...

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