When I’m feeling especially cynical in a movie review, I’ll think about how much money it costs, how much manpower must be used, to make even the most forgettable movie. Not just the outright bad or disastrous films out there, but the downright mediocre ones, the films that will be forgotten in mere months. With as many movies that are made in a given year, the bulk of them are bound to be forgotten. But sometimes you can tell from the onset that a film is destined to be one of those that drift from memory immediately. Ken Marino’s Dog Days is exactly one of those movies.
For the sake of full disclosure, it should be noted that I am a devout and vocal cat person, so I’m obviously not the target audience for a film whose sole purpose is to expound on the healing power of dogs. But even if I were a dog person, I still can’t imagine a film this schmaltzy, meandering and shockingly slipshod from a technical standpoint winning me over. The only consistent aspect of Dog Days is its ability to be awkward. It’s never off-putting, but the saccharine nature of its disposition, it’s outmoded sense of humor and it’s laboriously drawn-out, yet painfully obvious plotting make for a slog of viewing experience that takes a lot of patience.
The film wants to be Love, Actually (2003), but with dogs, taking a bunch of disparate people whose lives are all enriched by the various canines they encounter. As schmaltzy as that sentence sounds, the film manages to go even beyond its own wildest ambitions and be one of the most toothless movies I’ve ever seen. Not that I want every movie (or even any movie, honestly) to be examples of hardboiled reality, but Dog Days wants to be a paean to feel-goodness while never having the grasp on the characters it needs to pull off this sort of tone.
Instead, the film telegraphs each character’s arc from the very beginning, making for a lot of thumb twiddling as we wait for the film to wrap up in the exact way we expected it to nearly two hours ago. The whole thing is overstuffed with characters and story that Dog Days forces its way through for a needlessly bloated 113 minute long runtime.
On top of this, director Marino’s (How to Be a Latin Lover) history in vaguely odd and histrionic comedy — one rooted more in awkwardness more than cleverness — keeps popping up in the movie. It’s a style that feels outdated by at least a decade and makes the film feel frumpy and vaguely weird without going full bore. Unfortunately, nothing about the mismatched tone or bloated storyline is truly bizarre enough to make Dog Days a curio, the one thing that could have possibly made the film memorable. Instead, what’s left is a well-intentioned, yet fatally dull movie with nothing going for it if you’re not a dog lover. Rated PG for rude and suggestive content, and for language. Now playing at AMC River Hills, Carolina Cinemark, Epic of Hendersonville, Regal Biltmore Grande.