Dean Spanley is the sweet and intriguing tale of a man who fondly remembers his previous life as a canine.
It all begins when Fisk Junior (Jeremy Northam) and his father Horatio Fisk (Peter O'Toole) attend a discussion on reincarnation led by Swami Nala Prash entitled "The Transmigration of Souls." Also in attendance are facilitator from the Colonies Wrather (Bryan Brown) and, surprisingly, man-of-the-cloth Dean Spanley (Sam Neil). A series of run-ins with the Dean convince Fisk Junior they're more than coincidence so he lures Spanley to dinner with the promise of his favourite spirit Tokay, a rare Hungarian sweet wine. But after two glasses, Spanley begins to share genuine-sounding experiences of a fascinating past life.
This film is far less about action and conflict than it is about the gradual unfolding of an unbelievable tale. At the end of each session, slightly more is known about the inner workings of a k-9's mind and a personal connection becomes apparent. It is this connection that becomes the heart of the story.
The film was shot between London and New Zealand and the scenery and architecture are wonderful. O'Toole's role is small but significant and he brings to it the perfect balance of tenderness and belligerence. Each of the other characters is a little loopy and the actors provide them with energy and wit.
It's not something to jump up and down about but it'll give your tail a little wag.