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Must Love Dogs

A Dog of a Film

A romantic comedy starring the perpetually charming John Cusack and the painfully striking Diane Lane would seem to be a wonderful idea. The inclusion of a plethora of cute, fluffy dogs would seem to guarantee the ascent of Must Love Dogs to cinematic greatness or at least get a few more seats in the theater.

Far from charming and funny, Must Love Dogs has a disturbing underlying message that no life can effectively be worth anything without a partner by your side. Even more disturbing is the underlying message about canines. They are effectively only space/time fillers until a more suitable "human" partner comes along. I can only imagine how many faithful and loving canines will seek therapy after watching this film.

Sara Nolan (Diane Lane) has been divorced for eight months. This is completely unacceptable to her extended family and they literally perform an "intervention" in an attempt to get her dating life back on track. There is no discussion of career, family, or the latest reality television series. The sole interest (read: obsession) of everyone in this film seems to be finding "someone" for Sara; which ultimately results in Sara's sister Carol (Elizabeth Perkins) posting a profile of Sara on a dating web site, which includes the closing line, "Must Love Dogs".

Sara herself is a frighteningly fragile, vulnerable, and desperate woman. She passes an attractive man in the supermarket aisle and promptly goes around the corner, lets her hair down, and unzips her jacket to unveil her "assets". It's supposed to be funny, but it really just seems pathetic. This air of desperation is not attractive. In reality, this kind of desperation tends to drive people away.

Complimenting Sara is Jake (John Cusack) who similarly went through a recent divorce and has doubts about his ability to find "someone". Jake while marginally more appealing than Sara (only because he doesn't seem as desperate) is still a frightfully depressing character who wallows in self-pity and watches Dr. Zhivago obsessively. So, clearly Sara and Jack are destined for each other. It's just a question of how they'll get together.

What unfolds is a series of mishaps, missed connections, almost connections, and general absurdity. Some of it is vaguely amusing, but by and large Must Love Dogs is a color by numbers job. There are no surprises and everything (including the dialogue) feels forced and stilted.

Director Gary David Goldberg paints a depressing and bleak existence for those who are single and doesn't paint a particularly flattering picture of either gender; which makes the film simultaneously misogynistic and male hating. Must Love Dogs is a total misfire and will no doubt scar numerous canines and those of the single persuasion.

Rating: 1 out of 5 stars