Prayer Focus
Movie Review

Must Love Dogs

MPAA Rating: PG-13 for sexual content

Reviewed by: Kathy Bower

Very Offensive
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Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
Romance Comedy
1 hr. 38 min.
Year of Release:
USA Release:
July 29, 2005 (wide)
Featuring: Diane Lane, John Cusack, Dermot Mulroney, Christopher Plummer, Stockard Channing
Director: Gary David Goldberg
Producer: Suzanne Todd, Jennifer Todd, Gary David Goldberg
Distributor: Warner Bros. Pictures
Copyright, Warner Bros. Pictures
Copyright, Warner Bros. Pictures
Copyright, Warner Bros. Pictures
Copyright, Warner Bros. Pictures
Copyright, Warner Bros. Pictures
Copyright, Warner Bros. Pictures
Copyright, Warner Bros. Pictures
Relevant Issues
Copyright, Warner Bros. Pictures

How can I deal with temptations? Answer

Should I save sex for marriage? Answer

DATING—How far is too far? What are the guidelines for dating relationships? Answer

Relationship information
Learn how to make your love the best it can be. Discover biblical answers to questions about sex, marriage, sexual addictions, and more.

DIVORCE—Under what conditions may Christians divorce and remarry? Answer

The hardest trick is making them stay.

Here’s what the distributor says about their film: “Sarah Hurlihy (Lane), a divorced preschool teacher who has sworn off dating after her bad breakup, finds her family pushing her back into the dating world. Her sister places a personal ad for her, declaring that anyone answering it “must love dogs,” despite the fact that Sarah doesn’t own a dog herself. When someone intriguing responds to the ad, she decides to borrow Mother Theresa, her brother’s dog, and plunge in.”

Viewers are introduced to Sarah (Diane Lane) first, as her meddling siblings attempt to push her into a relationship—any relationship. Jake (John Cusack) is brought onto the scene only moments later in another setting. Their two stories emerge separately, ultimately and predictably converging. Sarah’s family members seem to be functionably dysfunctional, with cliché members cropping up to enter plot details and inject some surprisingly funny scenes.

Jake’s character leaves us with enigmatic questions like “How is it a “if-not-forty-then-awfully-close-to-it” man can maintain a rather chic studio apartment overlooking his hobby/business/avocation of wooden boat building whilst facts are presented that he has sold none of the hand-made beauties?” That is but one of the many ravelings viewers are presented throughout the movie. Some characters, places, and objects are just there, with no visible means of support, nor raison d’etra. Interestingly, in spite of the loose-ends, the movie does flow, but primarily as a means of advertisement at times. There’s an Internet dating service touted shamelessly a number of times, as well as few other strategically-placed advertisements.

As the movie proceeds, it is explained that Sarah is divorced after her husband committed adultery with a woman fifteen years his junior. Jake is divorced apparently due to neglect on his part. There are the obligatory bad-date scenes for Sarah, while her meddling sister Carole (Elizabeth Perkins) seems to press Sarah toward the end goal of being emotionally attached to a prospective new spouse. The movie is overtly predictable, peppered with stereotypes in family and friends. It must be said, however, that the best humor is that related to circumstances surrounding family.

“Must Love Dogs” is likely to be touted as a good date flick, or chick flick. It is not appropriate for young children, and certainly not a healthy choice for teens. Sexuality is the main focus in much of the movie, and we are even tasked with a pseudo car chase while Jake and Sarah go on a city-wide search in the middle of the night for a drug store that carries condoms.

Profanity is limited, but I found it particularly disturbing that a preschooler was scripted to use the Lord’s name in vain.

Replete with a homosexual couple, promiscuous blonde bimbo, roving eye laciviously lecherous “best friend” (Ben Shenkman) and even a meddling Aunt Elaine, the movie labors forward at times. Yet, in the end, viewers see that ultimately good triumphs over evil, and love can overcome many obstacles.

The trouble is, there are these self-inflicted obstacles, as well as strangely placed characters and objects, whose purpose seem only to exist because somebody was related to the producer. I personally found it rather mysterious that the title inferred a strong relationship with the canine species, when ultimately the dogs are nearly useless plots.

It is disturbing though, that our main characters seem to need a sexual involvement as criteria for finding a life-mate. While a reasonable expectation of a sexual life as part of a life-partnership is understandable, the movie seemed to propel forward at times only via use of sex. Sarah isn’t necessarily promiscuous, yet she is pressured to wear “boob shirts” and a revealing dress. First dates are shown as resulting in passionate forays, and one relationship ends due to a cavalier attitude regarding sex. In the midst of the movie we are continually confronted with observing children. Some are wiser than the adults sent to teach them. It is easier for the adults to laugh at the precocious little comments that the preschoolers have than to become beacons of morality. In one major scene Sarah’s extended family celebrate a “FIRST COMMUNION” of one of the children. Other scenes include the introductions of couples both married and unmarried, committed to one another.

Jesus introduced his ministry at a wedding in Cana. Interestingly, one of his major teachings occurred when he traveled a great distance in order to reach a water well at a very specific moment in a particular woman’s life.

Our faith is presented in Scripture as understanding that we as a Church, or followers of Christ, are Brides of Christ. The fact is, in a Christian’s life, marriage and fidelity must be understood as holy pillars of faith. It should be maintained then, that we cannot take our marriage vows lightly. As followers, we know that we are not to place ourselves in a position of temptation. Our scriptures teach us that we are to seek the company of moral persons, and avoid the debased and sinful ones.

While we are sexual beings, created with obvious design to attract one another in order to pro-create, moral choices are what separate us from the rest of the animal kingdom. Christians need to be mindful of the temptations of the world lest these things mire them down into acts of moral destruction.

“Must Love Dogs” is attractive, funny, and delightful at times. It is however, also loaded with adultery and peppered with identification that sex acts are most important aspects of character. Therefore my bottom line warning is that if we as Christians seek out this movie or any of its type, we must be mindful of the fact one of the seven deadly sins is lust. The wages of lust caused the demise of Sarah’s first marriage. The wages of lust nearly destroyed the possible relationship between Sarah and Jake.

It is unfortunate that a potentially great love story became trite, predictable, and offensive when forced to display continual allusions to illicit sex. How is it that movie makers mistrust the ability to succeed at the box office if they could just write the same movie script sans misuse of sex? The obvious success of good or positive moral choices are oddly interspersed in the story line. Unfortunately, the bottom line is the movie concentrates on exploitation of sex rather than making good moral choices.

See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.

Viewer CommentsSend your comments
Negative—Call me silly, but I’ve admired John Cusack’s acting. At least in romantic comedies like “Better Off Dead” and “Say Anything”, he proved he could carry the awkwardly philosophical type. He portrays a similar character in this film, but that may not reflect how the character was written in the book of the same title. I’ve read that director Gary David Goldberg was surprised by Cusack’s response to the script, as he sent Goldberg about 35 pages of new dialogue for his character. Much of it must have been used, because Cusack’s speeches are full of his characteristic wit.

The story centers around Sarah (Diane Lane), a preschool teacher who has been divorced for eight months. Her family is encouraging her to start dating again, and they put phone numbers and pictures of single men on her refrigerator. Sarah’s sister Carol (Elizabeth Perkins) writes an ad and places it on the Internet for Sarah, tagging it with the phrase that is the title of the film. Jake (Cusack) answers the ad, and their first awkward meeting is at a local dog park. Sarah borrows her brother’s dog, and I forgot whether Jack owns his. The dogs are cute, but they’re mostly inconsequential to the plot.

Jake doesn’t seem to know what he truly wants in a woman, as he has a sporadic relationship with a perky blonde. Sarah finds herself attracted to the father of one of her preschool students, Bob (Dermot Mulroney) as well as Jake, and her emotional confusion is a large chunk of the film’s middle section. Nevertheless, in the final scene the lassie (pun intended) dives into water and swims to the quirky boat builder, and the credits roll over a huge family cookout where each couple recounts the tale of how they got together (a la “When Harry Met Sally”).

I wanted to like this film. Unfamiliar with Diane Lane as I was, I hoped she and John Cusack would have similar chemistry to Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan in You’ve Got Mail. Cusack’s character watches “Dr. Zhivago” a lot, and he longs for “love so real that even when you’re dead it hurts.” Sadly, he and Lane aren’t together on screen very much, and, aside from a general feeling that these two are intrigued with each other, the script never gets below the surface to show them building real love or commitment. Screen time is wasted on their other “dating” relationships, etc., and there’s no real reason for Sarah and Jake to end up together. I never felt like they loved each other.

My profanity tote board reached 15. There were several vulgar references, and several uses of God’s name in vain. But there is much sexual talk here, from innuendo to bold statements. It’s all gratuitous and boring, like the characters have nothing else on their minds but what’s south of the equator.

Okay, that deals with the moviemaking quality section. Now we’re going to move on to the rant, and beware—spoilers are coming.

Michael Medved used to say that Hollywood’s golden age was when the characters on screen inhabited a much better world than our own. “The world of movies was more beautiful, heroic, functional, and optimistic than real life.” Today, it’s just the opposite. Let me explain:

In this film, it seems that every unmarried person portrayed or mentioned in dialogue is actually or practically divorced. This includes both main characters. Promiscuity (and sexual talk) abounds, and an extended “condom hunt” sequence with Sarah and Jake was most uncomfortable for me.

Elizabeth Perkins’ character, Carol, was especially troubling to me. The family is portrayed as religious—there is a scene at a youngster’s confirmation party—but the church plays no role in governing their actions. Carol prominently wears a Celtic cross around her neck in many scenes, but she enables much of her sister’s irresponsible behavior. She buys Sarah a very revealing dress, which Sarah does wear on a date. It is said of Carol that before marriage, “she wasn’t saving herself for anyone.” She says of one of Sarah’s dates, “He’s got a Ph.D and a great a**. Let’s not get dragged down by ethics.” After the aforementioned condom hunt, she tells Sarah, “No condom is a sign of ambivalence,” and then proceeds to recount her own experience—with Saran Wrap. Raise your hand if “eew!” In a brief moment of truth, she confesses that her daughter was born nine months later. Commenting on Sarah’s feelings of (is it guilt?) for their attitudes, Carol says, “Blame the nuns.”

Jake’s friend Charlie is also a bad influence. He visits a strip club (onscreen), surfs pornography web sites (not onscreen), and is irritated by women who are, in his words, “devious, self-serving, and shallow.” Instantly I thought, “Look who’s talking.”

The worst thing about this film seems de rigueur nowadays; the most stable relationship in the film is the homosexual “marriage” of Leo (Sarah’s co-worker at the preschool) and Eric. These two men wear conspicuous wedding bands, and are portrayed as the most comfortable, confident, well-adjusted people in this fictitious world. Thus Hollywood continues its efforts to desensitize people to the abomination of the homosexual lifestyle. There are no overt displays of affection, so as not to fully freak anybody out, but the message could not be clearer: “Gay is good, and the straight world is full of disorder.”

Bill (Christopher Plummer) makes a profound point in one scene. When Sarah questions him about all the women he’s dating, he speaks of the death of his wife: “I’ve had the love of my life. Now I’m just tap dancing. If I dance fast enough, perhaps I won’t remember what I’ve lost.”

This seems to be the main theme of the film, expressed in one of the songs from the soundtrack: “Don’t it feel nice to let yourself go?” Contrariwise, the Bible says it’s important to deny ourselves and follow Christ above all. That is the Way of abundant life, where we gain God’s protection and provision. When we follow God’s standards for sexual behavior, there’s no self-hatred, no fear of exploitation or multiple heartbreak. No fear of disease, “oops” pregnancies, etc. Everything just fits.

There is much more freedom in following God’s standards than the “free love” crowd would have you believe. There is freedom to develop many friendships; make choices about life that might not be open if one continues to splash around in the modern sexual cesspool. As for this “Must Love Dogs”, I would encourage you to let it pass. It’s not worth your time.
My Ratings: Very Offensive/2
—Carrie Rostollan
Neutral—I liked the movie. I did disagree with some of the aspects like how there was a guy that was gay that worked with Sarah in of all places a kindergarten class! I don’t like how Hollywood just shoves the gay agenda down my throat; they did the same thing when I took my son to see the kids soccer movie “Kicking and Screaming.” Another negative impact was there were only White people in the movie!!! How realistic is that? If there were any other race of people even at a restaurant I didn’t notice. I am white, while my wife is black, and we found it odd there was no African American, Asian American, Indian American, etc. Yes, there was a lot of sex outside of marriage, unfortunately Hollywood began that eons ago, and now we have the gay agenda on top of that. Overall, it was a good show, my wife and I were hoping it would be as good as “You’ve Got Mail” but it’s in a totally different class. Would I recommend this movie to teenagers? Nno way.
My Ratings: Average/4
—Ben, age 29
Negative—I must say, when my sister and I saw this advertised we were so excited to see this movie. We thought it would be a cute romantic comedy. We were very sadly letdown… At the beginning of the movie there was a lot of potential for the two main characters. They were both looking for a real relationship based on love and honesty. Instead of sticking to their thoughts on dating relationships, they gave into those around them and spent the whole movie listening to who others told them to date. All anyone seemed to care about in the movie was sex (aka whoopie, as my friends and I refer to it as). The main characters never let their relationship move beyond physical attraction. This was very dissapointing to me because there was great potential and chemistry in their relationship for depth and sincerity. Lastly, I was very disturbed by the way they portrayed homosexuals, as if they’re the only ones who can make a marriage work. Once again Hollywood has taken something that God intended to be beautiful and pure, and has made it disgusting and very currupt.
My Ratings: Extremely Offensive/2
—Rebecca C, age 21
Negative—I went to see this movie last night with my husband and ended up walking out of it half way through! We were extremely offended by the sexual content and homosexuality. If I had kids in daycare and knew that homesexuals were watching MY kids during the day?? I think not. I ended up leaving and getting a full refund! This movie definitely needed an “R” rating!
My Ratings: Extremely Offensive/1½
—Karmen Martz, age 24
Positive—I really enjoyed this movie. I thought it was sweet and reflected how it is trying to date. People are sleazy and talk about sex a lot, that’s what the world is like! This movie showed two people trying to find a real, love relationship and showed how difficult it can be, especially when sex before marriage can destroy relationships.
My Ratings: Average / 3
—Hayley, age 25

Comments from young people
Negative—I am 15 years old and went to this film with my two sisters and mom. Unfortunately, we didn’t heed the rating and were forced to leave 20 minutes in because of graphic sexual conversation. I was really disturbed that the people in the film literally had no other lives apart from trying to “get a date.” Judging from other movies I’ve seen, the MPAA would be wise to re-rate this film to an “R” Highly unrecommended. Oh, and I wasted seven bucks!
My Ratings: Extremely Offensive/3
—Caroline Pilgrim, age 15