Jiminy Christmas(!) Must Love Dogs is bad; and not even in a cute, breezy, watch-it-and-forget-about-it sort of way. It’s just bad — the kind of movie only blue-haired ladies pumped up on Hormone Replacement Therapy and Vicodin could intermittently giggle at, though they’d probably find more pleasure in playing connect-the-dots with their goddamn liver spots. Ironically, given that it’s a film about online dating, it actually plays out like a half-witted, 98-minute Match.com commercial attempting to tactfully remind you that you’re 30ish, single, and so hard-up for a fucking date that you’re willing to post that 10-year-old Glamour Shot to a website if it might get you laid.
But, more than just bad, Must Love Dogs is depressing; for a guy in his late 20s/early 30s who grew up miming the tics and stammers of Lloyd Dobbler, Dogs offers an unwelcome dose of reality: John Cusack — he who provided us with five of the best characters in film history (Dobbler, Rob Gordon, Martin Q. Blank, Lane Meyer, and Craig Schwartz) — has become a lame, middle-aged caricature of himself. In Must Love Dogs, it’s the same Dobbler spiel, only it’s delivered in the half-hearted, defeatist manner that comes from a man who has been plying the same shtick for 20 years and still ends up with Diane Court’s pen. What the hell happened to the “dare-to-be-great situation”? If Lloyd Dobbler still has to resort to PerfectMatch.com to get a lousy date, then what the hell chance do the rest of us have, huh? It’s just downright disheartening, man.
Sarah (Diane Lane) is a bitter divorcee reluctant to get back into the dating scene until her obnoxiously forthright sister Carol (Elizabeth Perkins) posts her dating profile online with the postscript: “Must Love Dogs,” a tagline tossed in for the sole purpose of granting screen time to oh-so-fucking-cute-I-need-to-puke canines, a cynical marketing ploy meant to bring in the Hallmark demographic. After a series of unfortunate dating experiences (none so unfortunate for her as for those of us who must watch them), she meets Jake, who has presumably given up kickboxing for building boats. Jake, who is also dealing with the breakup of a marriage, has the “heart of a poet” and the “soul of a philosopher,” i.e., he speaks in sentimental platitudes fast enough that we don’t have enough time to cringe before we’re hit with another sap nugget. Before their relationship has time to take off, however, it is derailed by a fake conflict, in the form of the charmingly sleazy ladies’ man, Bobby, played by Dermot Mulroney with all the zest of a guy trying to collect a paycheck as soon as possible so he can get back to his wife, Catherine Keener, who would never sell out to play a stock romantic-comedy character.
Written and directed by Gary David Goldberg — the brain power behind Paul Reiser’s Bye Bye Love — Must Love Dogs features dialogue seemingly written by many of the less-inspired online daters, who believe they can sum up their entire life with a series of bland adjectives (“Hi! I’m ______. I’m mature, caring, intuitive, sensible, compassionate, faithful, and honest. And I laugh a lot! Date me! For the love of God! Please. Pick me! Pick me ! I need some stanky on my hang-low, now!”). It’s a shame, too, because Internet dating actually is ripe material for a good screenplay; I used to dabble in it myself with mixed success, but each experiences (and those of friends) was worthy of at least an entertaining vignette of courtship ineptitude. Goldberg, unfortunately, misses the boat here, preferring instead to focus Jake’s obsession with Doctor Zhivago and Sarah’s sitcommy interactions with the supermarket butcher instead of the awkward realization that the photo that you saw online looks absolutely nothing like the person with whom you are on a date; and if that weren’t bad enough, the family sing-along of David Cassidy’s “Come on Get Happy,” should be poisonous enough to scare off any would-be ticket buyers.
Dustin Rowles is the publisher of Pajiba and managing partner of its parent company, which prefers to remain anonymous for reasons pertaining to public relations. He lives in Ithaca, New York.
Must Love Dogs / Dustin Rowles
Film | May 13, 2006 | Comments ()