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"Year of the Dog"

Directed by Mike White.
Written by Mike White.
Starring Molly Shannon, John C. Reilly, Regina King and Peter Sarsgaard.
Release Year:  2007

Review Date:  4/12/07


Although I had not seen a trailer for the movie "Year of the Dog", just knowing that writer Mike White was attached was enough for me.  As the writer of comedies I liked ("School of Rock", "The Good Girl" and last year's "Nacho Libre"), White's first effort behind the camera was good enough to be a sight unseen for me--it really didn't matter what "Year of the Dog" was about, I was all over it.

And, I fucking blew it here.  Not really a comedy, and not really a drama, but an uncomfortable, unfunny pro-animal anti-meat-eating movie, "Year of the Dog" failed every single category during my free screening tonight in Bethesda.  Molly Shannon stars as Peggy, a lonely secretary who has a lovely little puppy who whom she shares every non-work activity: she walks the dog, she hangs out with the dog at home in front of the TV, they take road trips together, and she even sleeps with the dog.  Then, one night, her dog goes off to take a leak one night and by the next day, her beloved puppy is dead, possibly at the hands of some kind of toxic poisoning left in the garage of her next door neighbor (John C. Reilly).  Devastated, she begins to behave completely fucking erratically, distressing those in what little life she has, like her best friend at work, Layla (Regina King), her brother and sister-in-law (Thomas McCarthy and Laura Dern), and a man at the pet doctor who she meets over the death of her first dog, a man named Newt (Peter Sarsgaard).  Grief-stricken to the point of going suicidal, Peggy is saved when Newt tosses a dog adoption her way, the first of many dogs that Peggy will become attached to while trying to rebuild her life.

First of all, I really hurt for White and his production team if "Year of the Dog" was supposed to be funny.  Our packed-house audience nearly went out of their way to NOT laugh at the majority of the seemingly-intended jokes in the movie.  Shannon is a gifted comedian but one who doesn't seem well geared to play a role that requires her to be the straight (wo)man to the hapless behavior of others...but, then, her co-stars seem to also be playing it straight, which must be how the characters were written, which is a bad idea that shows throughout the film's running time.  I almost couldn't get over how forced so much of "Year of the Dog" felt; it is very rare when I can say that John C. Reilly is not good in a film, and in "Year of the Dog", he is very ungood.  VERY.  The use of static, face-up shots to play out conversations between two characters doesn't work as well as it does in Wes Anderson's movies, to mention one prominent director who does this a lot; having King and Shannon's constant work conversations play out this way make these seem even more forced than they would if they weren't looking directly at the audience, and to get what I mean, you will have to see the movie.

Which, you shouldn't do.  Unless, you are a big-time dog lover; I could see why dog lovers might like this movie.  Shit, if they had just called it "PETA, I Love You", at least it would draw in the right audience.  Also, I would think that vegans and vegetarians in general will fucking LOVE "Year of the Dog."  FUCKING LOVE IT.  They won't love it because it's good; no, they'll love it because it pushes an agenda around why any sane person would enjoy some good, grilled steer before attacking their work day.

Wow, I really thought this sucked major dong.  I'm more upset that I turned down another freebie to see this one, and I clearly made the wrong pick.  Happens, I guess.

Rating:  Hard Vice


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Bellview Rating System:

"Opening Weekend":  This is the highest rating a movie can receive.  Reserved for movies that exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development, setting...or Salma Hayek.  Not necessarily in that order. 

"$X.XX Show":  This price changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently, it is the $9.50 Show.  While not technically perfect, this is a movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.  "Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca", but you'll have a great time watching.  The $9.50 Show won't win any Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see "Office Space"). 

"Matinee":  An average movie that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.  Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about yourself.  A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave the theater saying "That wasn't too, did you see that Lakers game last night?" 

"Rental":  This rating indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one."  Mostly forgettable, you couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the video store was out of copies of "Ronin."  If you can, see this movie for free.  This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a half stars." 

"Hard Vice":  This rating is the bottom of the barrel.  A movie that only six other human beings have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen.  A Shannon Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a movie.  Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or "Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!  (Warning:  strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard Vice"-rated movies.)

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All material by Justin Elliot Bell for SMR/Bellview/ except where noted
1999-2009 Justin Elliot Bell This site was last updated 01/08/09