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Dog Days a great date flick but with missed opportunities

The movie Dog Days is being marketed as a family flick perfect for young children. It’s really geared more toward older teens and those out for a date night.

Dog movies seem scientifically engineered to tug at our heartstrings. Ditto romantic comedies. Mash those two genres together, and what do you get? Dog Days, a rare PG-rated romcom chockful of meet cutes and cute dogs, as well as characters who’ve lost their dogs and other characters who’ve found them—and a few folks who find themselves along the way, too.

Elizabeth Daniels has it all: a successful career hosting WakeUp L.A., a loving boyfriend (Peter) and the dog they adopted together. One day she comes home to find her beau in bed with someone else. In a blink, Elizabeth’s suddenly single. And it’s hard to say who’s sadder: Elizabeth or her depressed dog, Sam.

RATING: PG-13

GENRE: ComedyRomanceDrama

CAST Eva Longoria as Grace; Nina Dobrev as Elizabeth Daniels; Vanessa Hudgens as Tara; Lauren Lapkus as Daisy; Thomas Lennon as Greg; Adam Pally as Dax; Ryan Hansen as Peter; Tone Bell as Jimmy Johnston; Jon Bass as Garrett; Finn Wolfhard as Tyler; Ron Cephas Jones as Walter; Jasmine Cephas Jones as Lola; Jessica Lowe as Amy; Jessica St. Clair as Ruth; Michael Cassidy as Dr. Mike; Tig Notaro as Danielle Thornhill; Lauren Lapkus as Daisy

Enter former NFL star Jimmy Johnston, a guest on her show soon thereafter. He sassily shreds the morning-show script, leaving Elizabeth flustered and frazzled on air. She can’t wait for the interview to end, but the viewing audience loves their chemistry. In fact, Elizabeth’s boss decides he should become her new co-host. Of course, Jimmy has a dog, too: Brandy. And as Brandy and Sam get acquainted, so do Jimmy and Elizabeth—onscreen and off.

The plot revolves around a lot of people, an adopted daughter, their lives and their dogs. Mischief and mayhem ensue.

And it’s only a matter of time before a neighborhood crisis draws them all together into a serendipitously saccharine canine conclusion.

Dog Days weaves all these characters and elements together with sweet messages emphasizing family and friendship.

That’s good.

daysNeighbors Grace and Kurt delight in their adopted daughter Amelia. They earnestly strive to do everything just right, to love her as much as they humanly can. But sometimes kids respond better to a different species altogether, and Mr. Snuggles’ timely arrival opens up Amelia’s heart. And when Grace and Kurt eventually learn that the dog belongs to a heartbroken elderly man, Walter, we watch sympathetically as they struggle to navigate the emotional and ethical tug-of-war that follows.

In an interview with People magazine, Dog Days director Ken Marino said, “The world is a really hard place right now to deal with every day. I wanted to dive into a movie that would make people feel good for a while. And I am sucker for dogs.”

I think Marino has partially succeeded here. Dog Days is a gentle, feel-good film that delivers some solid messages. Chief among those is the movie’s emphasis on adoption. It’s terrific to see two conscientious parents striving to make a loving home for their newly adopted daughter. Bravo!

But …

I don’t think Dog Days knows what it wants to be. I watched it expecting a family movie. I mean, films aimed directly at families are the only ones that earn a PG rating these days.

Dog Days doesn’t quite get that job done. Yes, the canine antics here do at times produce the intended LOL moments. But watching from a parental point of view, I was frustrated with revealing outfits and sexual innuendo. References to pot brownies and alcohol bob about the script, too. I winced a bit every time someone said, “Oh my god” (which happened nearly 30 times). Other profanities turn up as well. By the end of the film, I concluded, This really isn’t a movie for families with young children.

So what is it then?

People contributor Kelli Bender described it as “Love Actually meets Marley and Me.” And that, I think, is about right. This is a really tame romcom with lots of dogs. It’s not a dog movie for kids, in my estimation.

In summary, Dog Days feels like a missed opportunity. It deserves credit for avoiding the kinds of gratuitous gross-out gags that fill so many PG-13 and R-rated comedies these days. It would be perfect for date night. But in the areas where Dog Days goes astray, its content issues keep it from being a solid family movie-night choice for kids under 10.

 

–Focus on the Family

 

 

 

 

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