By: Oberst Von Berauscht (Five Beers) –
The lives of more than a dozen individuals intertwine as their mutual interest in their dogs brings their life stories together:
- A husband and wife eagerly await the arrival of their newly adopted daughter, who they have worked to get for years and now that they have to work to earn the affection of the stone-faced little girl that seems to want none of that. Until she falls head over heels in love for a stray dog at the park one day.
- A cantankerous, reclusive old man stiffs his Pizza delivery boy for a tip, and determined to get back at him, he inadvertently causes the man’s dog to run away.
- A hormonal mess of a pregnant woman gives birth and the husband who lives under her hormonal mess of a thumb gives their dog to her irresponsible hipster-Bandleader-stoner brother while they tend to their newborn.
- A coffee shop Barista volunteers at a no-kill dog shelter in order to try and get the attention of a sexy Veterinarian, ignoring the advances of the dog shelter owner who worships her.
- A tight-assed morning show host gets into an on-air fight with a former Pro Basketball player, and the positive fan feedback results in him becoming her co-anchor. The two find that their dogs get along so well, and so they set a “dog date”, but are the two co-host really experiencing…. PUPPY [email protected]$#&$*(@)#HAIL#&$&SATAN(!#*!$(*$
Apologies to my readers…. that pun was…. a mistake….
At its heart, Dog Days is Love, Actually with the Christmas/New Years theme replaced by Canis lupus familiaris. I will get into my numerous problems with this film in a moment, but I would like to take just a couple brief paragraphs to describe what I did enjoy about the movie.
The cast of this film is full of talented individuals, a vital thing for an ensemble film. Comedian Tig Notaro plays a Dog Psychologist who is not even remotely subtle about the fact that she is just in it for the money, and while she only has a few brief scenes, Notaro’s trademark dry sarcasm and wit prevails whenever she is on screen. Lauren Lapkus gets even less screen-time than Tig Notaro, but manages to make a solid impression as well. Thomas Lennon is hilarious as the put-upon and minimized husband whose wife is suffering from an attack of the Pregnancy Brain. Adam Pally manages to get some solid laughs out of the tired “burnout stoner brother” stereotype. Tone Bell stands out as the outgoing and jokey ex-basketball player. His humor and charisma perfectly fits the character he was cast to play, and he gets a tear-jerking scene at the beginning of the third act which shows off some promising acting chops.
The heart of the movie however belongs to Ron Cephas Jones, who many might know as “Bobby Fish” on Luke Cage. Jones is given one of the most well-trod archetypal characters in the film (the angry old man with a heart of gold), and comes out on top with a remarkably affecting performance. Everything about his character’s backstory is generic and artificially crafted to tug heartstrings, and yet he sells the living shit out of it in every scene.
Also… the dude is dapper A.F.
While (as you will see in the below paragraphs) I’m ultimately not recommending this film, I do feel that fans of unsung character actors should give this film a look as an shining example of how their good work can dramatically improve a forgettable film.
Ken Marino had a sleeper hit on his hands when his directoral debut How to be a Latin Lover scored high audience marks, particularly with the Latin-American community. He decided to follow that success up with this romantic comedy about dog owners and their antics as they go about their privileged upper to upper-middle class lives in suburban Los Angeles. Is it vapid and formulaic? You bet! All five of the principal storylines in this movie rely on overused and maudlin dramedy conventions. That would be forgivable if they found an interesting new approach to them, but I will wager if any average person just watched the first scene of each intertwining story, they would be able to predict with total accuracy where the characters will end up by the end.
Yeah, pretty much…
The aforementioned Love, Actually as well as director Richard Curtis’ other films can never be accused of being particularly innovative. But Curtis isn’t afraid to use self-referential jokes poking fun at the Rom-Com tropes that his films contain. That sort of subtle meta-humor, combined with splendid casting and Curtis’ tightly constructed scripts wrangle unwieldy plot threads and ultimately make the films work well as a piece of popular entertainment.
Also, Bill Nighy is awesome to watch regardless of what he’s in.
Where Ken Marino’s Dog Days differs from a Richard Curtis production is the increased use of improvisation. Dog Days feels cobbled together by filming many of the same scenes over and over again trying joke after joke, then finding what works in the editing room (The film’s end credits blooper reel seems to support this hypothesis). The result is a film with wildly different tones from moment to moment. It doesn’t help that many jokes are punctuated by cutting to a close-up shot of a dog giving a cutesy whine. If it weren’t for the handful of scenes where characters banter to each other in a manner far more familiar to Rock Hudson/Doris Day movies, I wouldn’t even believe that a physical script existed for this movie.
I haven’t said much about the dogs in this movie, and thats because for a movie that is ostensibly about dogs and their owners, the dogs themselves rarely get much to do in the film. In fact, four of the five storylines just use dogs as a McGuffin. As a result, for the most part dogs are in this movie just to sit around and look adorable. They succeed at that I suppose, but that’s not hard for dogs. Even Ugly dogs are adorable.
Don’t believe me? Well then, I submit as evidence the following:
“Goddamn it! Case dismissed.”
The film’s biggest falling off point is in the way the lead female characters are depicted. None of the lead women are given any depth as characters. As a couple examples: The Anchorwoman character Elizabeth (Nina Dobrev) has only one distinguishing feature about her character; she is angry and self-involved and only a man can loosen her up. The Barista Tara (Vanessa Hudgens) is depicted as being incredibly clueless, focused on the affections of the wrong man when the right one is right in her face (you think they took a long time to come up with that one?). Granted, most of the male characters are one-dimensional as well, but at least there are several with fully fleshed out backstories and more than just one defining trait.
Dog Days comes recommended for one purpose only: to put on TV when your elderly family members come over and you are sick of being forced to watch golf tournaments.
Dog Days (2018) Drinking Game
Take a Drink: whenever the film cuts to a close up shot of a dog, and a cutesy dog whine sound effect plays
Take a Drink: whenever the word “Dog” is spoken
Take a Drink: for playful banter that screenwriters love to write but no human being would ever think to say in the moment.
Do a Shot: to salute every talented actor trying (and failing) so hard to make this feel anything but formulaic.