Must Love Dogs (2005) / Comedy-Romance
MPAA Rated: PG-13 for language and sexual content
Running Time: 98 min.
Cast: Diane Lane, John Cusack, Christopher Plummer, Dermot Mulroney, Elizabeth Perkins, Stockard Channing, Ali Hillis, brad William Henke, Julie Gonzalo, Glenn Howerton, Ben Shenkman, Jordana Spiro, Kirk Trutner
Director: Gary David Goldberg
Screenplay: Gary David Goldberg (based on the book by Claire Cook)
Review published August 7, 2005
Must Love Dogs is standard romantic comedy stuff made passably entertaining by a solid cast of actors that excel at making these sorts of movies. Based on the novel by Claire Cook, this tells the story of a recently divorced school teacher named Sarah (Lane, The Glass House), whose close-knit family has been heavily pressuring her (they have an intervention!) to get back into the swing of things and start dating again. They even create an ad on an internet dating site for her, and although she is opposed to the idea, the fact that she has been receiving responses piques her curiosity, and her interest. While she cycles through the different eligible men from the site, she is also being pursued by Bob (Mulroney, The Wedding Date), handsome father to one of her students. She is interested in Bob but dating one of the parents is against her rules, yet she finds his charm hard to resist. Meanwhile, she becomes intrigued by a rather uncouth man from her dating site, a boat builder named Jake (Cusack, Runaway Jury), and now Sarah is torn as to which way she should go to find dating bliss.
It's hard to go wrong with John Cusack in a romantic comedy, but the makers of Must Love Dogs almost do. it has its good moments, sure enough, but these moments come at a price, as Gary David Goldberg's (Dad) inclination is to have his characters jump through increasingly insane amounts of hoops in order to finally achieve true love. The lack of genuine insight into relationships and the difficulties of online dating is perhaps the most frustrating thing about the film, as Goldberg often goes for the safest, most formulaic road possible in order to achieve the required results. The only problem is that he has an A-list cast starring in a B-list movie, and while they do make trite shenanigans appear just a little better than they would with lesser talent, their involvement also frustrates because we expect something more out of them.
Needless to say, this is a case where expectations will probably play the largest role in how you feel about the movie by the end. My recommendation -- keep them very low. In fact, expect "made for the Lifetime Channel" fare, and you may find this mildly enjoyable in its own corny way, and even grow to enjoy it even for its sillier moments. Conventional fluff for cutesy romantic comedy loving audiences -- not meant for anyone else.
©2005 Vince Leo