MOVIE REVIEW- Dogged: How to make everybody mad
When you see the people in Peggy's (Molly Shannon) life, you can understand why she's so attached to her beagle, Pencil, and why she's so devastated when Pencil is erased from the universe.
There's Peggy's boss, Robin (Josh Pais), who talks about putting people ahead of money but does the opposite, and doesn't put animals anywhere. Her best friend, ever-perky Layla (Regina King), has a noncommittal boyfriend, Don (Dale Godboldo), who flirts behind her back.
Peggy's brother, Pier (Thomas McCarthy) and his wife, Bret (Laura Dern), are paranoid about protecting their young children from germs and ideas.
Layla encourages Peggy to pursue romance: "Even retarded crippled people get married." Next-door neighbor Al (John C. Reilly) seems like a possibility until Peggy hears how much he enjoys hunting. Then there's Newt (Peter Sarsgaard), who works with animals and for whom every night is a three dog night. He converts her to veganism before she finds out Newt is short for neutered.
"I've always had better relationships with animals than people," he confesses, unshaken by a dream in which he was raped by two bull mastiffs. "What am I supposed to do– stop caring?"
Peggy turns animal-loving into an extreme sport, first trying to find homes for dogs and then adopting them herself as if she were Angelina Jolie and they were Asian orphans.
Written and directed (his debut in the latter category) by Mike White, Year of the Dog shows a lot of lovable dogs and other animals and speaks out against their mistreatment, which should appeal to the PETA crowd and dog-lovers in general. But the movie also gives time– not equal time but time– for opposing views, and it shows Peggy's love of animals turn into a psychosis; so whose side is it really on?
Perhaps White can't help bringing some dark humor to bear in everything he writes, but in this case he's more likely to annoy both sides than please everybody.
As for Shannon, she has the acting chops to carry the movie as a low-key nutcase, but is she really a person viewers will want to focus on for an hour and a half?
Year of the Dog has definite problems in terms of defining and reaching its target audience. Some of the characters' big quirks are too forced and obvious, while some smaller quirks are well-observed treats. Overall, the picture's strong points don't outweigh its challenges. Its bite is no better than its bark.