Dog Days is a really tough film to watch. It’s a godawful slog to get through, but the even greater sin it commits is wasting the talents of an enormous cast of some of the best comedic actors working today.
Directed by Ken Marino (from both The State and Party Down), one would expect this film to be a hilarious spoof of romantic comedies. Those giant ensemble cast ones like New Year’s Eve and Mother’s Day are certainly absurd enough to deserve a comedian coming after them for a little satirical fun. But no. Though Dog Days follows the same formula as these romance homogenization vehicles, it actually plays the plot fairly straight, and is not self-aware enough to be a satire.
Dog Days actually turns out to be an empty, forced onslaught of romantic tropes with lifeless performances and saccharine musical cues. Even the die-hard romance devotees in the audience should see through the void of genuine emotion here and know that they’re being pandered to in the worst way.
Following various pairs and families of dog owners, Dog Days creates several interweaving stories of love and loss around Los Angeles. Among them are: the recently dumped career woman, in denial of falling in love with her coworker; the old widower who makes friends with the teenage pizza delivery kid; the young barista who thinks she wants the hot veterinarian even though the sweet guy who comes in every day for his latte is in love with her… Blah blah blah… you get the picture. Each of these CliffsNotes version of a relationship is given as much thought as the veterinarian’s morning coffee order.
The movie has glimmers of something better within the cast. Thomas Lennon and Tig Notaro steal their scenes like bandits. I would like to think that they’re winking at the camera through their ad-libbed brilliance, but that might be giving the film too much credit. While Adam Pally and Jon Bass are good as well, they seem to just be doing the best they can with a vapid script.
With little to celebrate within the human side of Dog Days, it’s worth noting that the dogs themselves really do steal the show. The camera loves watching these pooches tilt their heads, lift an ear, or stare blankly forward. A version of Dog Days with only the dogs would be a much better cinematic experience than what we have here. The chihuahua Gertrude (who wears a freaking helmet) completely stole my heart, and I loved watching her watch stuff. Charlie, Sam, and Mabel are all sweeties who deserve better. In the end, I cared far more about the fates of the dogs than those of the humans.
Dog Days is a pointless exercise in attempting to create human emotions and romance. The dogs may be cute, but that isn’t nearly enough to make this worth anyone’s time or attention.