|Must Love Dogs
2005 - PG-13 - 93 Mins.
|Director: Gary David Goldberg
|Producer: Suzanne Todd
|Written By: Gary David Goldberg, Claire Cook (novel)
|Starring: Diane Lane, John Cusack, Elizabeth Perkins, Christopher Plummer
|Review by: Joe Rickey
|Official Site: www.warnerbros.com/mustlovedogs/index.html
Presumably looking for a way to break back into the world of directing theatrical films after the 1989 dud 'Dad', longtime sitcom scribe Gary David Goldberg decided to do what anyone used to writing simple scripts with dashes of romance in them (as sitcoms are prone to such subplots). He decided to write a formulaic romantic comedy with a hook: He would make "Man's best friend" a semi-focal point of the film. After all, who doesn't like dogs? They're so darn cute and their presence would be enough to make an otherwise typical romantic comedy better than the sum of its parts. Right?
Idiotic humans, thinking I don't know any better...
Well, that is not the case with 'Must Love Dogs', starring Diane Lane and John Cusack. She's a preschool teacher smarting from divorce who, at the prodding of her family and friends, decides to reenter the dating world through the online service Perfectmatch.com (a not so subtle instance of product, or, in this case, service placement). He is the man, also recently divorced, whom she meets through the aforementioned online dating service. As for the canines, they are there for emotional support, present in almost every scene but even their natural personality and beauty cannot overcome a tired working of an overly familiar idea.
Diane Lane and John Cusack are talented performers in their own right. Both are especially adept at romantic comedies seeing as how Cusack appeared in 'Serendipity' not too long ago and Lane last appeared in the film 'Under the Tuscan Sun,' perhaps the definition of such a film. Here however, they are left out to dry as the result of a screenplay (written by director Goldberg) that is content to travel the same path that seemingly all romantic comedies travel.
First, the two meet awkwardly, thus leading to indecisiveness on their part as to whether they want to meet again even though both sense a spark. While they patter about deciding whether to meet up again, one of them experiences a road block in the form of another suitor, thus further delaying the inevitable. Eventually, they get together again and the rest you could undoubtedly write yourself.
One could say that all romantic comedies are predictable. After all, one does not go to such a film to see the potential mates never consummate their relationship with a kiss or two. Even knowing this, Goldberg fails to make the journey towards the inevitable consistently entertaining. Sure, he garners a few laughs here or there through character quirks (Cusack is a builder of wooden boats who refuses to sell his latest creation to a potential customer once he finds out the man just wants to cut it in half and mount it on the wall above his TV) or through the behavior of the canine companions (one dog really takes playing dead seriously) but he never takes anything quite far enough or does enough with what he has meticulously designed. One gets the distinct feeling that part of Goldberg wants to throw the romantic plot to the side and make a feature film about the goofy things dogs do. He instead stays a little too close to his commercial sensibilities and gives the canines the short shrift. Too bad since the few scenes with canine related humor are by far the most lively and otherwise humorous scenes in the film.
All of the aforementioned self-restraint on the part of writer-director Gary David Goldberg leaves 'Must Love Dogs' as a disappointingly trite romantic comedy.