In the land of TV movies, is there any bigger juggernaut than the Disney Channel? Ok, maybe Lifetime, but you get my point. While most of their endeavors aim to be harmless family features, you have to admit, they’re pretty awful. In full disclosure, I would have absolutely no interest in reviewing something as family-friendly as Wiener Dog Nationals — besides theatrical features of course — were it not for the fact that I own two wiener dogs. Their names are Beatrix Kiddo and Pixar, by the way. And so it is without further ado, a movie about the “Wienerschnitzel”-sponsored “Biggest Little Race” is headed to DVD on July 2.
Phil (Jason London), has lost his wife and is doing the best he can to raise his three kids — Skip (Austin Anderson), Bridget (Caitlin Carmichael), and Danny (Julian Feder). After Danny comes across a picture of his mom from when she was a kid with her pet Dachshund that she used raced, he decides that he wants a wiener of his own for his birthday. They find Shelly (credited on IMDB to Mila Miesner —but played by four other dogs in the movie — used in real life wiener dog racing promotion material) at an adoption event. This is much to the chagrin of Ms. Merryweather (Morgan Fairchild), who wanted to find Shelly for her own winnings, even though her own dog Princess (Lana LaVigne) is a champion as well. Now Ms. Merryweather will do anything it takes to keep Shelly from winning the nationals, even if it means using the flirting between Phil and Melanie (Alicia Witt), who works in the racing circuit.
Harmless is the best word to describe Wiener Dog Nationals. I usually hate made-for-TV fodder as it is always lowest common denominator and full of the worst writing/directing/acting imaginable. I know that working with low or no budget can lead to some abysmal filmmaking — even Sundance is perceptible to this. But writer/director Kevan Peterson keeps the tone light and never lets his actors get too over-the-top, even though Caitlin Carmichael comes close to grating. And for a family film full of dogs, there’s surprisingly only one pee joke!
But if there’s one thing that filmmakers seem to never understand when making a film featuring any number of Dachshunds — the recent Mama fell prey to this as well — is that if there are wiener dogs in your movie, they should be in almost every shot. They are perpetually under foot and love nothing more than a lap to lie on. However, I expected Wiener Dog Nationals to be far worse than it is. It plays like an adaptation of the “dogumentary” Wiener Takes All (which I also own), and it’s a sure bet that if I were to have any children of my own in the future they’re bound to wind up watching Wiener Dog Nationals on an endless loop. And yours may too, even if you don’t own your own wiener dog.