Dog Days

During these dog days of summer, it’s the perfect time for this aptly titled movie. Enjoy the air conditioned movie theatre as you watch cute mutts running around.

I was really looking forward to this movie. I’m a dog lover, and actor/director Ken Marino is to me, what Dan Marino is to Dolphins fans. I loved him in Diggers (which he wrote), Tortilla Soup, and In A World…. As a writer, he also gave us Role Models, Wanderlust, and a handful of episodes of Childrens Hospital and The State; but as a director, he’s given us the movies How to be a Latin Lover and now this. It makes me think he’s trying to be the next Garry Marshall instead of Garry Shandling. And if he wants to make money, that’s probably a smart move. Marshall made horrible films like Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, New Year’s Eve, Beaches, Runaway Bride, Pretty Woman, Exit to Eden, etc. Yet those movies made a billion dollars at the box office. This film felt like the movie he would’ve made if he were still alive, and I expected more from the guy who gave us the criminally underrated Diggers (Paul Rudd, Maura Tierney) 12 years ago.

It’s a shame that such an intriguing ensemble cast is given such a predictable premise. They’re a bunch of dog lovers whose paths eventually cross. Unlike A Dog’s Purpose a few years ago, we don’t have to see dogs continually dying or being put down. These dogs do all the cute stuff you’d expect, and their owners all fall madly in love.

The dogs are adorable. There’s a pug that’s gotten loose from her owner. There’s a Chihuahua that has to wear a helmet because of a hole in its skull. Now, the one mistake was the hairy mutt that a stoned musician has to watch after his sister has a baby. A cuter dog surely could’ve been found.

There’s a morning news personality named Elizabeth (Nina Dobrev of The Vampire Diaries), that’s as annoying as the cast from Morning Glory (boy, the arguments I got into with the crew at Fox5 over that bad movie). It was great to see her talking to a dog therapist that’s played by the brilliant, and always deadpan, Tig Notaro. I would’ve liked seeing more of her in this.

Elizabeth has problems dealing with an NFL star (Tone Bell) when she can’t take her eyes off the cue cards (and off him). Yet their clashing on screen brought ratings gold, so he’s brought in to co-host with her. She may hate the situation, but her dog adores his dog. Any guesses on where that will lead them?

Barista Tara (Vanessa Hudgens) has a crush on a good looking vet (Michael Cassidy) she sometimes serves. She also watches as he gets out of his Porsche across the street to go to work. In one of the premises I hate in rom-coms, she’s being chased by a nerdy guy named Garrett (Jon Bass, the schlub from Baywatch). I’ve always found it hard to root for the guy in this instance, because he’s shooting way out of his league. And why when Tara finds out the vet is actually a bit of a jerk (sorry, spoiler alert), should she have to settle for him? Just because that’s what he wants? Well, at least this movie gives Garrett some traits that make him likable. He runs a dog rescue, and really cares about the animals (and people).

Rocker Dax (Adam Pally) is stuck with the ugly dog. As annoying as his character is, at least his band is cool to watch. Pink Ape does a rockin’ version of “I’m too Sexy” and “Walking the Dog.”

His sister Ruth (Jessica St. Clair of Playing House) is annoying, and she has a worthless husband (comedic actor Thomas Lennon, who I’ve loved since Reno 911).

There’s a heartwarming story about a couple (Eva Longoria and Rob Corddry), who adopt an 8-year-old (Elizabeth Caro). She doesn’t seem so willing to open up. When they find the lost pug, she comes out of her shell, and adores talking to the dog. Since we know the dog belongs to Walter (Ron Cephas Jones of Luke Cage and This is Us), you do wonder how that story will conclude (and I thought what they did was mistake and a better scenario could’ve easily been written).

It’s touching to watch Walter and his pizza delivery guy (Finn Wolfhard) constantly searching for the dog, and him becoming a father figure to the boy, who struggles in school.

Screenwriters Elissa Matsueda and Erica Oyama bit off a bit more than they could chew, and with so many characters, many of them just came off as childish. It felt like you were watching a sitcom.

San Diego fun fact: they play clips from the cult classic Attack of the Killer Tomatoes.

2 ½ stars out of 5, and I’m being very generous because of my love of canines.