2018, PG, 112 min. Directed by Ken Marino. Starring Nina Dobrev, Vanessa Hudgens, Finn Wolfhard, Eva Longoria, Tig Notaro, Rob Corddry.
REVIEWED By Josh Kupecki, Fri., Aug. 10, 2018
It is becoming increasingly apparent that the species of Homo sapiens on this planet can’t get their shit together. They need help. And while perhaps we’re a few years away from some superior alien race beaming down and explaining to us that we’re doing it wrong (and that can’t come soon enough, frankly), I guess we’ll have to rely on domesticated animals to assist us in not destroying the world. Or in the case of Dog Days, at least bringing people together to make the world a better place (heterosexuals only, please).
This doldrums August rom-com is directed by The State veteran Ken Marino, known in front of the camera mostly for his work on the beloved Party Down and the inexplicably prolific Wet Hot American Summer films (series? Does it matter at this point? What even is life?). Dog Days is a scattershot ensemble of people meeting cute due to their canine companions, some romantically and some for just friendship (a young pizza delivery dude and an old guy have their moments).
But the film mostly concerns Nina Dobrev and Vanessa Hudgens looking for love in all the wrong places. Various characters meet; some are local television hosts and some are retirees, but all have one thing in common, and if the title didn’t hip you to it, well there’s really no hope for you anyway. Hearts are broken and mended, dogs are adopted, and there is only one canine casualty, which is pretty good for a film about man’s best friend bringing people together (see A Dog’s Purpose for reference).
What Marino and writers Elissa Matsueda and Erica Oyama bring to this very pedestrian material is a sense of the absurd. And by absurd, I’m not talking about some stupid bit involving some Jet Ski mishap with Adam Sandler or David Spade. There are many times where you think you know where the joke is going, and then it escalates into another universe, and that is what distinguishes Dog Days from some random Netflix-algorithm bullshit that will most certainly pop up on your queue. The film is funnier than it has every right to be, given the boilerplate premise of dogs bringing people together, but Marino and co. go for the brass ring. Try to imagine going to your local deli for your usual sandwich, and then, as you are eating said sandwich on a comfortable park bench, you discover that they added bacon to it. It’s a film that toes the line of mediocrity while also mildly subverting those tropes, which is basically all you can ask for in this particular season of movie releases.