Year of the Dog
Talented comic screenwriter and actor Mike White (Chuck and Buck, The Good Girl, School of Rock) makes his directing debut with this low-key comedy about a loosely related group of neurotic nerds, geeks, dorks and stress monkeys living in bland suburban Los Angeles. At the centre of this ‘burb meltdown is Peggy (Molly Shannon), an awkward single 30something whose carefully managed life is thrown into turmoil when her beloved pet dog Pencil dies in mysterious circumstances after a visit to the neighbour’s backyard. Orbiting Molly are her uptight brother and sister-in-law (Thomas McCarthy and Laura Dern), best friend (Regina King), who’s obsessed with marrying her womanising boyfriend, her boss (Josh Pais), a workaholic, the aforementioned neighbour (John C Reilly), a bachelor with a fetish for hunting knives, and potential love interest Newt (Peter Sarsgaard) and a new pet woofa.
As written and directed by White, Year of the Dog is a very whimsical wheeze that overdoses on pathos at the expense of actual laughs. The film feels far too tame for its own good. Perhaps the edginess that characterises White’s other films should be attributed to his collaborations with other filmmakers (notably Miguel Arteta). Whatever the case, the talents of his impressive cast are here largely wasted. Better off checking out Bobcat Goldthwait’s recent, hilarious John Waters-esque canine comedy Sleeping Dogs. (Miles Fielder)