This heart-affecting boy-and-his-dog drama is based on a 1995 memoir by the late Willie Morris. It is set in the 1940s in Yazoo City, Mississippi. Eight-year-old Willie (Frankie Muniz) is a lonely and weak kid who is preyed upon by Big Boy Wilkinson (Bradley Coryell) and his gang. His only friend is Dink Jenkins (Luke Wilson), the town's sports hero. However, he is drafted and sent overseas.

Despite the protests of his father, Jack (Kevin Bacon), his mother, Ellen (Diane Lane), gives Willie an English fox terrier for his ninth birthday. The dog, named Skip, becomes his best friend. In addition, he opens up and expands Willie's constricted world. Skip is with him the night he spends in the cemetery as part of an initiation into Big Boy's gang, and he is instrumental in establishing his relationship with Rivers Applewhite (Caitlin Wachs), the prettiest girl in town.

Director Jay Russell orchestrates this sentimental journey into the past. In a literary voiceover of the older Willie Morris, Harry Connick, Jr., tells us that Skip "possessed the wisdom of nature as old as time." This pleasant and edifying drama fits right in with countless other stories and myths about animals as valuable companions, imparting wisdom about the world and its incomparable mysteries.