Reviewed by: Spencer Schumacher
|Featuring:||Molly Shannon, Peter Sarsgaard, Regina King, John C. Reilly, Laura Dern|
|Producer:||Nan Morales, Brad Pitt, Mike White|
“Has the world left you a stray?”
To listen to director Mike White is to experience a person who seems to have had showbiz thrust upon him, rather than grabbing it himself. He talks reluctantly and seems to be out of place in the world of entertainment. Given that the characters he’s created take on the same types of “real-world” traits, this is not necessarily a bad thing. White is most famously known as being the nerdy substitute that had his job stolen by Jack Black in “School of Rock,” a character that does not seem too far from his real self.
In “Year of the Dog,” writer Mike White (“Chuck and Buck,” “School of Rock”) makes his directorial debut with this typical romantic comedy about a girl and her… dogs.
Molly Shannon plays Peggy, an office secretary working in a cubicle for a hyper-controlling boss. Her life revolves around the one true love of her life, her beagle affectionately known as Pencil. One night, Pencil wanders off and dies mysteriously while foraging in a neighbor’s (Thomas C. Riley) yard.
Peggy’s family and co-workers try to help her get through the loss, but do not realize how important Pencil was. Peggy’s co-worker (Regina King) tries to set her up with eligible men, but Peggy is too distraught to consider dating. While in mourning she meets Newt (Peter Sarsgaard) who works at an animal shelter. Newt not only brings a new dog into Peggy’s life, but a new moral philosophy, one of animal liberation and vegetarianism.
While the story unfolds in standard, linear fashion, it is rather layered with sub-plots dealing with the neighbor, her family, and the whole world of animal cruelty she has become involved with. As she gets more deeply entrenched in this new lifestyle, both Peggy and the story teeter on the edge of going to rather dark and uncomfortable areas, both in the tone and the political nature of the subject it explores. However, the film does a good job in staying balanced.
Those familiar with the terrain explored in “Chuck and Buck” (2000) will find the tone of this film familiar. In that earlier film, White penned a story of the lengths one would go to renew a past friendship. The film was at its heart good-natured, but had a dark, uncomfortable edge around it. “Year of the Dog” delves into the same cinematic territory. Overall, the film has a real “feel-good” appeal to it, though it is surrounded by some rather rough edges as it delves into the world of animal rights and the use of animals in cosmetics and fur.
The movie is edgy, quirky and operates on different beats than your typical Hollywood film; one actually feels as if they are watching real people rather than other-worldly “stars” whose latest exploits simultaneously entertain you in the back of your mind while you watch them on the screen. Those whose tastes in cinema lean toward independent fare may enjoy this off-beat film.
For a general audience, this is a difficult film to recommend. There is very little objectionable about it, as far as adult content. There is absolutely no sexual content (since there is no romantic interest for Peggy, save her dogs), no nudity, and there are only two instances of the b-word, but unlike the profane usage of the word to degrade females, the usage in “Year of the Dog” is literally used to refer to a “female dog.” There is a brief scene of a dog defecating, but, other than that, the film is as clean as a dog home from grooming. The PG-13 rating this film has garnered is mostly based on suggestive references and the “tone” of the film, as it takes a very serious look at the world of animal cruelty, a subject that may be too intense for younger viewers.
The film also co-stars Laura Dern as Peggy’s sister in law.
Violence: None / Profanity: None / Sex/Nudity: None
See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.