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Sleeping Dogs Lie

Relationships, Honesty and Sexual Deviance

Some secrets are best kept secret. That is the lesson of Sleeping Dogs Lie, a dark, confrontational comedy that deals with characters whose closets are overstuffed with skeletons, though not necessarily of the human variety. For example, thirty seconds into the movie you learn about how Amy (Melinda Page Hamilton) was a collegiate teen when she impulsively performed fellatio on Rufus, her four-legged best friend. She can’t explain why and, as she declares early on, has no lingering interest in bestiality. But it happened.

Amy feels compelled to divulge her secret to John (Bryce Johnson), her doting fiancé. That doesn’t work out so well, and before long, John opts out of the engagement. Although he freely admits to having eaten a cracker covered in male sperm -- not his own, of course -- at least, as he says, it was human. The image of his soon-to-be wife pleasuring a dog is simply too much to bear.

On some level, it’s hard not to sympathize with him. Sleeping Dogs Lie is a movie filled with repugnant secrets and brutal admissions, and though most of them ring true in the context of Bobcat Goldthwait’s wildly original screenplay, they’re not easy to swallow.

That said, there is an underlying depth and genuine sweetness to the film that is both surprising and impossible to resist. It might be tempting to assume that Sleeping Dogs Lie is some kind of perverted farce, daring the audience to be shocked and awed when its characters speak honestly about extra-marital sex, porn addiction and, of course, illicit relations with the family pet. And yes, the movie finds dark, somewhat taboo humor in Amy’s struggle to forget her most glaring indiscretion, but it’s not vulgar, nor exploitative. It merely uses Amy’s story to illustrate a point -- that, contrary to popular and facile wisdom, honesty is not always the best policy.

Perhaps the movie’s biggest surprise is Goldthwait, who also directed. Yes, this is the same Bobcat Godthwait who played the spastic Officer Zed in the Police Academy fiascos and the same guy who set infamously fire to Jay Leno’s couch on a bizarre episode of "The Tonight Show". (He also directed 1992’s Shakes the Clown, for what it’s worth.) Here, he has proven himself as a most unlikely -- and most talented -- auteur. Let’s hope he keeps it up.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars