Three canine-centric films have hit theatres so far as it appears 2018 is the year of the dog. While Isle of Dog and Show Dogs appear on opposite sides of the rating spectrum, where would Dog Days fit in? Its huge cast and premise fall in line with the Garry Marshall ensemble comedies centred around holidays, so would this film be more aptly named Dog, Actually?
Synopsis: The lives of multiple dog owners and their beloved fluffy pals around sunny Los Angeles. When these human and canine’s paths start to intertwine, their lives begin changing in ways they never expected. (IMDB)
Starring: Nina Dobrev, Vanessa Hudgens and Adam Pally
Writers: Elissa Matsueda and Erica Oyama
Director: Ken Marino
Rating: PG (Canada/United States)
Running Time: 113mins
The layered story follows a few residence of Los Angeles whose lives are intertwined thanks to their canine counterparts. There’s Tara (Hudgens), an optimistic barista, who is in a love triangle with her hunky vet Dr. Mike (Michael Cassidy) and the nerdy, kindhearted dog rescue center owner Garrett (Jon Bass). Then there’s Tyler (Finn Wolfhard) who befriends Walter (Ron Cephas Jones), a lonely elderly man, that has lost his only friend, his pug Mabel. Mabel ended up at the home of Grace and Kurt Chapman (Eva Longoria and Rob Corddry) who attempt to feel like a family with their new adopted daughter Amelia (Elizabeth Phoenix Caro). Dax (Pally), a slacker musician, is forced by his sister Ruth (Jessica St. Clair) to take care of her pup as she focuses her attention on her newborn twins. Last, but not least, Elizabeth (Dobrev), a high-strung morning news anchor begins to fall for her new co-host Jimmy (Tone Bell) as they go out on doggy double dates.
Garry Marshall directed a number of holiday-centric ensemble films including Valentine’s Day, New Year’s Eye and Mother’s Day as they tried to emulate the successful ensemble dramedy of Love Actually. Dog Days surely follows that style, and in some ways it is successful in recreating it thanks to half its cast being replaced by some furry friends. The cast does a good job in acting alongside the dog actors delivering some comedic moments. Unfortunately, that is where the positive improvements end as the rest of the film and its story are below average in comparison to the genre.
The story is riddled with cliches and one-dimensional characters that do not hit the emotional punch the filmmakers hope for. Some of the jokes are outdated and gender-based which feel awkwardly placed in a film that tries to focus on its family-centric audience. While most of the subplots are unoriginal or feel contrived, the one revolving around Mabel the pug delivers some genuine feelings on how dogs affect our lives. In a film like this, does the story need to be terribly inventive or can it focus on showing the unconditional love between humanity and their canine companions? It ends up feeling like an adoption advertisement and is that really such a bad message to send?
Overall, Dog Days is a feel-good family ensemble that adds a little canine love to the genre. While the story is generic and filled with cliched characters, the genuine moments that do stick the landing make for an impactful message about the unconditional love of man’s best friend. It is a day of dogs that will make you cherish your own or yearn for one.
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