There are films I see that I want to root for, movies you just want so much to be good that even when they’re not, you mark them down as being “okay.” I just watched such a movie. I know it’s not new and I didn’t go to the theater and it’s not even just out on DVD, but I wanted to see it nonetheless. So this weekend, I made some popcorn, turned on the TiVo, and sat down to watch Must Love Dogs.
Perchance this is an odd movie choice for me, but it does have John Cusack and Diane Lane, two elements that certainly put you ahead of the game. On top of that, it even has an incredibly respectable supporting cast: Christopher Plummer, Stockard Channing, Dermot Mulroney, and Elizabeth Perkins, to name a few. I didn’t even expect that much, just to sit and laugh (at least a little) and feel good by the end of it.
The problem? It falls flat. It’s a romantic comedy, so we all know what the ending is before the opening credits roll. Hopefully, the trip will be worth it. In this case, it isn’t. Nothing absurd takes place, nothing is truly funny, and even the little side jaunts are not worth it. As I was watching, it seemed to me one of the reasons it didn’t work as a film was it was all a little too close to life and real world dating. It kind of had a whole Dragnet thing going on: the story you are about to see is true, only the names have been changed to protect the innocent. Which isn't what this type of movie should be providing.
Life got in the way, and I was forced to pause the movie with seven minutes left (I knew there were only seven minutes left because TiVo told me so), and the plot was nowhere near anything remotely resembling a resolution. And then, all of the sudden, Diane Lane was running after John Cusack in a mad attempt to make up and live happily ever after. The end credits rolled and that was it. Rarely would I argue a movie had to be longer (particularly a bad one), but this one could have benefited from about 20 more minutes of story-arcing. Cusack and Lane’s characters barely have any relationship and there’s no reason to think that this is some sort of star-crossed love. She just seems to jump for him because there are so many losers out there. Not quite the message I was looking for.
And that solid cast? They’re good, and they try to elevate the material, they really do. There just wasn’t enough meat for them.
My rating? How about totally worth it on cable or if you have a free rental somewhere and an extra bag of popcorn lying around that you want an excuse to use.