Many of you may never have heard of it, but the new Lassie is the year's best surprise. I first saw an ad for this about a week ago and my reaction was WTF??? Lassie in 2006?? How lame! Then, I started hearing some buzz. Several posters at "Hollywood Elsewhere" gave good reviews in response to a Jeff Wells diss (Wells has since seen the movie and calls it "a first-rate family-geared film"). It got two big thumbs up on the "... & Roeper" show. It's now running a very fresh 91% at Rotten Tomatoes. So we saw Lassie yesterday, and I can say it's a first-rate film for all ages. It's beautifully photographed (you will want to book a trip to Scotland the minute you leave the theater) and the acting is first-rate. When the cast includes Peter O'Toole, Samantha Morton, Peter Dinklage, Edward Fox, Kelly McDonald, & Robert Hardy (among many other notable British thesps), anyone who calls himself a film fan should sit up & take notice. There are no talking animals or CGI. Director Charles Sturridge ("Brideshead Revisited") treats his human and animal characters with equal respect, and never talks down to his audience. Yes, things get a bit weepy near the end, but dammit, the dog earns the tears. It's one of the best films that I've seen this year, and the best animal movie since My Dog Skip. This is apparently in very limited release, and will likely disappear from theaters soon. Forget the crap that's filling most screens at this time of the year. If Lassie is playing near you, take the time to see it. You won't be disappointed.