MUST LOVE DOGS
*** (out of 5)
July 29, 2005
Diane Lane as SARAH
John Cusack as JAKE
Elizabeth Perkins as CAROL
Christopher Plummer as BILL
Dermot Mulroney as BOB
Stockard Channing as DOLLY
Studio: Warner Bros.
Directed by: Gary David Goldberg
BY KEVIN CARR
Listen to Kevin’s radio review…
I love Diane Lane. Do you hear me, Diane? I love you. I’ll see anything you’re in.
With that said, keep in mind that I’ll be kinder to any film with Diane Lane in it. Even though she’s no longer the twentysomething flavor of the month, she’s still a beautiful woman that raises the level of quality of any film.
Her latest film “Must Love Dogs” follows a similar path as “Under the Tuscan Sun,” only this one’s a romantic comedy. Lane plays Sarah, a kindergarten teacher who is recently divorced. She’s pressured by her family and friends to get back in the dating world, and of course she resists. Soon, her busybody sister takes it upon herself to upload Sarah’s profile on an Internet dating site. The responses start to pour in.
Meanwhile, Jake (John Cusack) is a recently divorced boat maker whose friend keeps trying to set him up with hot, slutty girls in order to get him laid. (I fail to see the problem in this situation, incidentally.) However, Jake resists this, so his friend trolls some online dating sites until he finds Sarah’s.
Here’s where you might think a movie would take off. However, the filmmakers take the opportunity to make the characters loath each other from first meeting, which makes things a little more interesting. It’s not that this plot device hasn’t been done before. This was the entire premise of “You’ve Got Mail,” right down to the online dating angle. (In fact, you can think of “Must Love Dogs” as a “You’ve Got Mail” without Norah Ephron’s neuroses.) However, it still works to a degree.
The real key to this movie is the chemistry between the characters. Lane and Cusack work well together on screen. Still, as much as I love Lane as an actor (please forgive me, Diane!), there were plenty of moments that just didn’t work for her. I think the filmmakers were putting too much overt comedy on her shoulders. Lane’s strongest with her reactions, which makes her interaction with Cusack work so well.
Even with these comedic speed bumps throughout, Lane and Cusack manage to salvage a lot of the story. The height of their chemistry comes when the two of them have to drive all over town just to find a drug store in order to buy some condoms. Sure, this sounds like a gag from a “Porky’s” sequel, but it works in an adult – albeit immature adult – way.
According to reports, Cusack wrote most of his dialogue, and it shows. This shouldn’t be an invitation for every other two-bit actor to write his own dialogue. John Cusack is a special person, and I’d only advise it for him. (But brace yourself for people like Anthony Anderson and Steven Seagal to attempt this in the future.)
Cusack’s involvement livens up the character a bit and brings it out of the run-of-the-mill romantic comedy nature. It’s not as well constructed as his character in “America’s Sweethearts,” and it’s a far cry from his depth in “High Fidelity,” but there’s something there you don’t see every day in a movie.
The rest of the supporting cast is pretty strong, even if the characters have to wade through a sea of cliches. Christopher Plummer, Stockard Channing, Elizabeth Perkins and Dermot Mulroney all do fine jobs rounding out the cast. They also are each given their own side-story that may not be entirely necessary but still make for some interesting scenes.
Ultimately, there’s nothing terribly fresh with “Must Love Dogs,” although it definitely has its moments. We’ve seen a lot of it before, including a sequence that seems to be shamelessly transplanted from last year’s “Fever Pitch.” But when the chick flick territory has “Wedding Crashers” as its only competition, it’s got some potential to shine.