There are films that I see that I want to root for, movies that you just want so much to be good that even when they’re not you mark them down as being “okay.” I watched just such a movie last weekend. I know that it’s not new and that 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 choice for me for a movie, but it does have John Cusack and Diane Lane, two elements that certainly put you ahead of the game. Then it even has an incredibly respectable supporting cast: Christopher Plummer, Stockard Channing, Dermot Mulroney, & 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 just falls flat. It’s a romantic comedy, so we all know what the ending is before the opening credits roll, but hopefully the trip is 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 that one of the reasons it didn’t work as a film was that 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 quite what this type of movie should be providing.
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 that. Rarely would I argue that movie had to be made longer (particularly a bad one), but this one could have benefited from about 20 more minutes of story-arcing. Cusack and Lane’s characters have barely any relationship, 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, the really do, there just wasn’t enough meat there for them.
I have no established rating scale yet, but if forced to come up with a semi-quantitative scale I’d put it down as: 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.