No New Tricks: Our Review of ‘Dog Days’

Posted in Movies, Theatrical by - August 10, 2018
No New Tricks: Our Review of ‘Dog Days’

Dog Days, from director Ken Marino, is a strange animal. It’s the movie version of a trendy designer-dog. Two-parts comedy, one-part romance, and one-part drama, all wrapped up in a family-movie bow. The result is a shaggy movie mongrel that lacks each genre’s finer qualities. But at least it’s cute. So very cute.

Set in LA during the summer, Dog Days follows a group of Los Angelinos whose lives cross paths because of their dogs. Among them are Dax (Adam Pally), an unreliable musician whose pregnant sister entrusts him with her dog while she’s in the hospital. There’s Elizabeth, a TV personality whose dog goes into a depression after its owner’s recent breakup. And there’s a widowed old-man (Ron Cephas Jones) who forms a bond with his pizza delivery boy (Finn Wolfhard) after his dead wife’s dog runs away. Through a series of not-so-clever twists and turns, the cast’s adorable canine friends enrich their lives.

This film is what the hip kids call “basic.” It’s ultra-predictable, features one-note characters, and the music sounds like a mind-numbing ringtone that came pre-installed on cell-phones in 2010. Dog Days sinks into a played-out rom-com groove and stays there for the entire movie. How many times have we seen the slacker younger brother forced to grow up? Or how about the miserable old-man who bonds with the smart-ass neighbourhood kid? Not every film is meant to break the mould, but they must bring something compelling to the table. Marino’s signature wit and charm don’t make their way into the film’s plot, themes, and characters.

Dog Days Hudgens Kiss

credit — Photo by Jacob Yakob – © New Tricks LLC

Bad jokes come in many forms. Sometimes jokes are so bad they’re charming. And sometimes, jokes are so bad, sitting through them feels like you’re wasting your life. Most of Dog Days’ jokes fall into the latter category. I can’t stress how bizarre this is. The cast includes Adam Pally, Tig Notaro, and Rob Corddry, who are such funny human beings it’s unfair. You would think all you have to do is point a camera at them and yell “action!” And considering all the brilliant work Marino’s delivered in front of and behind the camera, it’s shocking how many weak comedic beats made it into this film.

Thomas Lennon’s hilarious beta-male husband Greg steals every scene, but that doesn’t tip the laugh scale in Dog Days favour. Dog Days’ other saving grace comes during a sombre moment when Ron Cephas Jones delivers a powerful scene towards the end of the film. It’s the type of world-class acting moment that goes into Oscar-reels. It’s out of step with the rest of the film but I’ll take what I can get from this movie.

Dog Days -- Nina Dobrev

Dog Days has one glaring takeaway: A dog’s unconditional love inspires us to be better people. Below the film’s sugary sweet surface lays a deeper insight into the nature of love. The toughest part of owning a dog is knowing the experience is finite. Count yourself lucky if you get 12 good years with your little friend before it’s time to say goodbye. Unlike romantic love, with dogs, heartbreak is guaranteed.

Screenwriters Elissa Matsueda and Erica Oyama use the film to explore how valuable those all-too-short windows of love and friendship are. They posit the question, “Is our demand to love and be loved forever a tad demanding?” As the cast of characters go through ups and downs alongside their four-legged friends, I thought about my own expectations of what it means to love. I left this shallow movie with a head full of deep thoughts. Despite Dog Days’ many issues, it contains a valuable message. Sharing something beautiful, even for a short time, makes us better people. And that’s always worth embracing, even at the risk of heartache and even when heartache is inevitable.

Too many films start out like lions and go out like lambs. They hook us with a cool premise and great characters but then they can’t bring it all together by the end of the movie. Dog Days has the opposite problem; the best moments come toward the end. But first, you must sit through cookie-cutter characters, a by-the-numbers story, and jokes that fall so flat you expect a trombone to go, “womp, woooomp.” But Marino sticks the landing, wrapping things up with a big sentimental ending. It’s like a boring date that ends with a hot kiss – on the cheek, though, because Dog Days is a family movie.

  • Release Date: 8/10/2018
This post was written by
Victor Stiff is a Toronto-based freelance writer and pop culture curator. Victor currently contributes insights, criticisms, and reviews to several online publications where he has extended coverage to the Toronto International Film Festival, Hot Docs, Toronto After Dark, Toronto ComiCon, and Fan Expo Canada. Victor has a soft spot in his heart for Tim Burton movies and his two poorly behaved beagles (but not in that order).
Comments are closed.
(function(i,s,o,g,r,a,m){i['GoogleAnalyticsObject']=r;i[r]=i[r]||function(){ (i[r].q=i[r].q||[]).push(arguments)},i[r].l=1*new Date();a=s.createElement(o), m=s.getElementsByTagName(o)[0];a.async=1;a.src=g;m.parentNode.insertBefore(a,m) })(window,document,'script','//','ga'); ga('create', 'UA-61364310-1', 'auto'); ga('send', 'pageview');