When Must Love Dogs was over I breathed a sigh of relief, not because the movie was bad, but because they’d made it to the end without screwing up a decent romantic comedy. It was a closer call then I would have liked, but in the end couples held hands, laughed, and were um… romantic. So let’s call it a win and riff on what went right and wrong.
John Cusack plays himself (again) as a divorcee with a heart of gold. He’s following up on roles such as Serendipity, America’s Sweethearts and High Fidelity. None of these films are bad per se, but none of them stretch Mr. Cusack in any meaningful way either. He’s our favorite wordy neurotic leading man. He’s stopped taking chances like Being John Malkovich or The Thin Red Line, or maybe he’s stopped getting edgier offers? I can see producers and casting agents around the globe saying “get me that fellow the ladies swoon for… you know, Cusack.” He has some really funny lines, which evidently he wrote for himself, and you wonder when he might take another crack at writing a screenplay. Overall he’s a positive influence on the flick.
This brings us to Diane Lane, the other divorcee whose personal ad Cusack sort of answers. I say sort of because, of course, neither Cusack nor Lane engage in the personal ads themselves, they are too scared, this task is handled by the best friend of Cusack and the sister of Lane, respectively. We couldn’t have two people this perfect scanning the personal ads could we? These two reluctant daters are thrown together forming the crux of the movie.
Anyway, back to Diane Lane and her rough beginning, what turns out to be a really rocky start to the film for her. In fact, after the first twenty five minutes I could feel the funny traveling out of my body and over to where Wedding Crashers was playing. I think my issue with her, and her super supportive family is I’ve never ever seen families like this. I’ve seen supportive families. I’ve seen funny crazy families. I’ve just never seen the perfect blend of wise old father, gay brother, and catty (yet loving) sisters. They are funny at times, completely absurd at others. Elizabeth Perkins (as the sister) does her best to steal the show and does most of the heavy comedy lifting while Lane is busy feeling her feelings.
My last real complaint with Must Love Dogs would be the jarring musical transitions and that damn Sheryl Crow remake, “The First Cut is the Deepest.” If I hear that monstrosity again I’m going on a spree, and I don’t mean shopping. Too many movies these days are throwing music in there when they don’t have the dialogue or plot to move them along and sadly Must Love Dogs is no different in this respect. I’d equate this to copping a feel on the first date. People, you’ve got to lay the groundwork first.
But, Must Love Dogs is worth seeing and I’ll tell you why. It doesn’t always go the typical route, it does have five or so laugh out loud moments, and if you can get past the first half hour it delivers the goods. It’s a little bit innovative, which is far more than we deserve from a romantic comedy. It’s got heart and it’s mostly plausible. It would make a splendid date film for new couples everywhere.