Bad Puppy: Our Review of ‘Wiener-Dog’

Posted in Movies, Theatrical by - July 06, 2016
Bad Puppy: Our Review of ‘Wiener-Dog’

When a young boy decides to simply call his newly adopted daschund ‘wiener-dog,’ it turns out to be one of the nicest names this awkward looking animals receives in his unstable life. The family also decides to put him to sleep after a series of unsavoury accidents – and act that falls through, though may have been best for everyone who later gets involved.

For Wiener-Dog is excessively cynical and macabre, following the titular pup as he moves from one dysfyunctional owner to another in Todd Solandz’s morbid, joyless comedy. It’s clear Solandz enjoys it however, if only to bother you and bring you down, an attitude no more evident than in an overlong panning shot that follows a trail of uncontrollable bowel movements made by Wiener-Dog after he ate something he shouldn’t have.

That’s the first part of his adventure that we bear witness too: adopted by a upper-middle class family featuring a passive-aggressive mother (Julie Delpy) and an angry, ineffectual father (Tracy Letts) and their doughy-eyed, weak-natured son.


Before being put down, Weiner-Dog is abducted by Dawn (Greta Gerwig) a vet assistant that decides to quit her job, leave her apartment, and take to the road with a childhood friend that she randomly runs into at a gas station (Kieran Culkin as Brandon, a character introduced as a teen along with Dawn in Solondz’s 1995 dark comedy Welcome to the Dollhouse). They’re on the move, and Wiener-Dog now has a new name, which is accompanied by a silly chorus once in a while (there is always an ‘intermission’ with wiener-dog moving in front of a changing green screen). Those two deal with their issues before exiting the film, and Wiener-Dog eventually continues his journey to a hard-luck college professor (Danny DeVito) who coasts on past success, and later a cantankerous retiree (Ellen Burstyn), who names the pup Cancer.

By this final act, which includes an uncomfortable meeting between this careless woman on the verge of death and her financially unstable and frequently absent granddaughter Zoe (Zosia Mamet) and Zoe’s new artistic boyfriend Fantasy, Solondz has driven home his pessimism about the world by making fun of everyone that inhabits it.

Culturally-sensitive hipsters have a social debate, ghosts of a woman’s younger self tell her how much she has wasted, a mother informs her son about dog rape, and someone’s alcoholic father dies.


And if Solondz even waivers for a second on beating the drum of the grotesque, or if perhaps you decide to look away and remind yourself that there are maybe one or two pleasant things that exist out there, he culminates this exercise in excessive negativity with a blunt metaphor and gross sight gag.

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