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"LAWN DOGS"
(1998) (Sam Rockwell, Mischa Barton) (Not Rated)

Alcohol/
Drugs
Blood/Gore Disrespectful/
Bad Attitude
Frightening/
Tense Scenes
Guns/
Weapons
Mild Moderate Extreme Mild Moderate
Imitative
Behavior
Jump
Scenes
Music
(Scary/Tense)
Music
(Inappropriate)
Profanity
Heavy None Mild None Heavy
Sex/
Nudity
Smoking Tense Family
Scenes
Topics To
Talk About
Violence
Heavy Moderate Mild Mild Heavy


QUICK TAKE:
Drama: An unlikely friendship develops between a ten-year-old girl and the twenty-one-year-old working class guy who mows lawns in her affluent neighborhood.
PLOT:
In the affluent, but rural suburban Kentucky neighborhood of Camelot Gardens, the Stockards are the new family on the block. Morton (CHRISTOPHER MCDONALD) and his wife Clare (KATHLEEN QUINLAN) are concerned with fitting in, and hope that their ten-year-old daughter, Devon (MISCHA BARTON), will quickly make new friends. The recipient of several heart operations, Devon would rather live out a fairytale she often repeats instead of selling cookies door to door, and thus heads out of her gated neighborhood against her parents' wishes.

Wandering down the rural roads and into the woods, she happens upon the trailer home of Trent Burns (SAM ROCKWELL), the twenty-one-year-old "lawn dog" who takes care of the yards in her neighborhood. Knowing that nothing but trouble will brew if the suburbanites catch sight of an upper class child with a lower income working class stiff, Trent wants nothing to do with her. Her persistence to be friends, however, eventually wears down his resistance and they begin a platonic, "secret" friendship.

Even so, Trent is continuously bothered by Nash (BRUCE MCGILL), the neighborhood's hired security guard as well as Sean (ERIC MABIUS) and his buddy Brett (DAVID BARRY GRAY), a meanspirited preppie who's having an affair with Clare. As their friendship grows, Trent and Devon must deal not only with their age and class differences, but also the neighborhood's growing concern and distrust of Trent.

WILL KIDS WANT TO SEE IT?
It's not very likely.
WHY THE MPAA RATED IT: Not Rated
This film wasn't submitted to the MPAA for a rating, but if it had been, it would have received an R for language, nudity, and violence.
CAST AS ROLE MODELS:
  • MISCHA BARTON plays a precocious ten-year-old girl who doesn't listen to her parents and occasionally lies to them about what she's doing so that she can hang out with her new friend who's twice her age.
  • SAM ROCKWELL plays a twenty-one-year-old guy who takes care of the neighborhood's lawns, tries to keep to himself and out of trouble, and befriends Devon.
  • The rest of the performers inhabit one-dimensional, stereotypical suburban fathers, mothers, a security guard and some preppie jerks.
  • CAST, CREW, & TECHNICAL INFO

    HOW OTHERS RATED THIS MOVIE


    OUR TAKE: 5.5 out of 10
    Awkward friendships between people of different genders, ages and social classes often make for interesting movies and that's certainly the case with "Lawn Dogs." Taking its title from a moniker for those who provide lawn care maintenance, this movie is a mishmash of good and not-so-good filmmaking.

    Featuring great performances from its two leads who are unfortunately surrounded by flat, stereotypical characters and an out of place, horrendously executed ending, this film is enjoyable for a while. However, like the lawn mower in the film that gets a lethal ingestion of sugar in the engine, this picture beings to sputter midway through and then gives up the ghost in its melodramatic and unfortunate finale.

    Until then, however, the platonic chemistry between the two leads easily carries the film. From the start, Devon has what seems like a schoolgirl crush on Trent, and he's understandably uncomfortable with this attraction. At first he tries to ignore her, but her precocious innocense and determined qualities eventually wear down his resolve. From that point on, the two secretly become best buddies and kindred spirits, feeling that they're both outsiders.

    Sam Rockwell ("Box Of Moonlight,") is quite good as the good-hearted but misunderstood working class stiff. Perfectly playing the handyman who avoids eye contact with the upper middle class elite, Rockwell easily creates a sympathetic character. When he gets his "revenge" by holding up traffic to do a skinny dipping dive from a county bridge, the audience is completely behind him.

    The best performance, however, comes from young Mischa Barton. Making her feature film debut, Barton is such a dead ringer for a young Calista Flockhart (the title character on the TV show, "Ally McBeal"), in both appearance and her expressions, that the similarities are nearly eerie. A natural actress with cute looks that will transform her into a big screen beauty and talent a few years hence, Barton truly makes this film fly. With her wide-eyed fascination and determined will, she also creates a character that's easily likeable and extremely enjoyable to watch.

    Unfortunately, the same can't be said for the rest of the performers and the characters they inhabit. Talented actors, such as Christopher McDonald ("Flubber") and Kathleen Quinlan ("Apollo 13"), are wasted in their one-dimensional, near caricature roles. Their Ward and June Cleaver type characters aren't pushed far enough to make them hilariously funny, and instead they come off as bland, uninteresting creations. The same holds true for the stereotypical security guard/cop, the handsome, but snobbishly meanspirited preppie, and many others.

    Directly related, filmmaker John Duigan ("Sirens," "Flirting"), working from a script by Naomi Wallace, tries to skewer the upscale suburban lifestyle, but doesn't deliver anything we haven't seen before (such as in the fabulously sardonic "Edward Scissorhands"). He presents the standard meticulous attention paid to lawns, the TV set out in the backyard at a cookout and other such elements, but none of them add up to much.

    Even so there are a few funny moments (an upset mailman putting Brett's mail in the path of Trent's mower, a toy gun toting, kleptomaniacal neighbor kid, etc...) to offset those problems, and the whole mediocre suburb plot could have been somewhat tolerated had Duigan lessened its use as a backdrop for the scenes featuring Devon and Trent. To make matters worse, however, that stereotypical plot line of the "bad guys" ganging up on Trent slowly begins to kill the film's momentum. It then concludes in a horrendous, poorly conceived ending that completely destroys the fun built up before it.

    All of which is too bad since there are so many fun and quirky moments scattered throughout the film. In addition, Devon's constant recounting of a fairytale about Baba Yaga, an evil witch of the woods, is compelling, and the film's final scene has an out of place, but certainly magical feel to it. Had Duigan and Wallace paid as much detailed attention to the other elements of the picture as they did on Devon and Trent, this would have been a quite good film. As it stands, it's wildly uneven, but the fun moments and performances by Barton and Rockwell support it just enough to make it a film worth considering. We give "Lawn Dogs" a 5.5 out of 10.

    OUR WORD TO PARENTS:
    Although the film isn't rated, it should be considered the equivalent of an "R." Profanity is heavy with 5 "f" words and an assortment of others. We see two sexual encounters (one involving cloaked oral sex, the other showing bare breasts) as well as male full frontal nudity as Trent strips and dives into a river and then walks back to his truck completely naked in front of many others.

    Some violence occurs at the end and includes a severe beating as well as a person being shot. While it's questionable how many kids will want to see this film, a heavy amount of imitative behavior occurs, with some of it coming from a ten-year-old girl. Thus, if you or someone in your home wishes to see this film, you may want to take a look through the content to decide whether it's appropriate or not.


    ALCOHOL OR DRUG USE
  • Trent drinks beer several times (once while driving) and comments in one scene that he has a hangover.
  • Some people drink beer at a backyard picnic, including Nash.
  • Some guys outside a bar drink beer.
  • BLOOD/GORE
  • Morton has a tiny cut on this finger after nicking it on some fishing tackle.
  • Trent has a small cut on his finger after nicking it on a chainsaw blade.
  • Neither bloody nor gory, we do see Devon sitting on top of her father's car and peeing down the windshield.
  • Trent has a small, bloody nick on his face and Sean has a slightly bloody lip after Trent bites him.
  • We see Devon's healed, but chest-long scar, and then see Devon's shotgun scar on his belly.
  • We see a bloody flag that's covering a dead dog.
  • A person's shirt is rather bloody after they've been shot in the gut.
  • Some blood runs from Trent's nose and mouth after he's been beaten.
  • DISRESPECTFUL/BAD ATTITUDE
  • Nearly everyone in the neighborhood, including Nash, Brett and Morton treat Trent like a subpar human being. Nash accuses him of stealing street light lampshades and tells him to get out of the neighborhood before dark, Brett asks him what he wants to be when he "grows up" (and laughs at his options), and Morton mockingly makes fun of Trent and later severely beats him.
  • Trent stops traffic in the middle of a one lane bridge, strips until he's naked, and then dives into a river.
  • Devon disobeys her parents' wishes that she stay inside their neighborhood, and later lies to them about spending the night about a neighbor girl's house, when in reality she's sneaking off to Trent's trailer (just as friends, nothing sexual).
  • A woman from the neighborhood uses Trent for sex, but won't give him her phone number or introduce him to anyone.
  • Brett shows up in Devon's garage and takes her father's gun away from her. He then takes a bullet and sensually rubs it across her face and says, "Did you ever wonder what one of these would feel like going in? You smell like your mom..." He then tries to put his hand up her shirt but she gets away from him.
  • Trent tells a story about some local police who beat him up and then shot him with a shotgun when he tried to defend himself (we don't see any of that).
  • Clare has an affair with Brett.
  • Devon and Trent steal two chickens from a nearby farm (for dinner).
  • A neighborhood boy steals things from the neighborhood (street lampshades, Brett's CD's, etc...) and then destroys them in his own little make believe, mock war.
  • Brett and Sean make disparaging remarks about a Latino mailman (calling him "burrito breath," etc...).
  • Brett and Sean ruin Trent's lawnmower by putting sugar into the gas tank and then confront and assault him (accusing him of stealing their new CD's which he didn't do).
  • Some may see Devon having both for allowing an American flag formerly owned by Trent's father, to hang and then drop to the highway from their truck.
  • FRIGHTENING SCENES
  • Brett shows up in Devon's garage and takes her father's gun away from her. He then takes a bullet and sensually rubs it across her face and says, "Did you ever wonder what one of these would feel like going in? You smell like your mom..." He then tries to put his hand up her shirt but she gets away from him.
  • Brett starts Trent's gas powered weed trimmer and holds it precariously close to Trent's face (and it does just nick him). They then struggle, and Sean's Doberman attacks Sam and bites him on the arm.
  • Trent and Devon playfully chase after Sean's Doberman through a field in their truck. Trent (who was earlier bitten by the dog), then purposefully hits it with the truck and then "puts it out of its misery" by repeatedly whacking it with a piece of lumber.
  • Nash, Sean and Morton beat up Trent until Devon shoots Sean and holds the gun on the others.
  • GUNS/WEAPONS
  • Cap gun/Toy musket: Aimed respectively at Trent and later Devon by a boy (and Devon turns the toy musket around, forces it into the boy's mouth and says, "You'd be doing the community a favor").
  • Handgun: Seen in Nash's holster.
  • Missiles: Briefly seen on some TV footage.
  • Handgun: Devon pulls her father's from the glove compartment and looks at it.
  • Gunshot scars: Seen on Trent's belly and he tells a story about being beaten up and then shot with a shotgun by the police.
  • Handgun: Shot by Nash into the river to get the attention of Trent and Devon (who he doesn't recognize) on the riverbank.
  • Handgun: Used to shoot a person in the gut.
  • IMITATIVE BEHAVIOR
  • Phrases: "Screwed" (sexual), "Piss poor," "Piss," "Half ass," "Bastard," and "Go to hell."
  • Devon purposefully squashes a fly into a raw cookie "man" before it's baked.
  • Since no one will allow him inside to use the bathroom, Trent urinates in a cup inside his truck.
  • Trent drinks a beer while driving.
  • Trent stops traffic in the middle of a one lane bridge, strips until he's naked, and then dives into a river (and then walks back to his truck completely nude).
  • Devon, who doesn't even know Trent, lets herself into his trailer when he's not home.
  • Devon (who's ten), climbs out her bedroom window onto the roof, removes her nightgown (she's still wearing underwear) and lets the wind catch it and carry away. Later, she howls like a coyote into the night sky.
  • Devon imitates Trent loudly belching several times.
  • To get back at her father for being mean to Trent, Devon puts cookout food into his toolbox, sits on the roof of his car and pees down the windshield, and then plays with his gun from the glove compartment.
  • Devon lies to her parents about spending the night about a neighbor girl's house, when in reality she's sneaking off to Trent's trailer (just as friends, nothing sexual).
  • Devon grabs Trent's slightly bloody finger (that he nicked on a chainsaw blade) and tries to suck the "poison" from it before he stops her.
  • Devon and Trent steal two chickens from a nearby farm (for dinner).
  • A neighborhood boy steals things from the neighborhood (street lampshades, Brett's CD's, etc...) and then destroys them in his own little make believe, mock war.
  • Devon and Trent playfully "moon" two fishermen (her father and Nash).
  • Saying that she doesn't feel well, Devon slowly lets her chewed up food fall from her mouth at the dinner table.
  • In retaliation for being called disparaging names by Brett and Sean, a mailman takes their mail and allows Trent to run over it with his lawn mower.
  • Brett and Sean ruin Trent's lawnmower by putting sugar into the gas tank.
  • Trent and Devon playfully chase after Sean's Doberman through a field in their truck (and then run over it).
  • JUMP SCENES
  • None.
  • MUSIC (SCARY/TENSE)
  • A mild amount of suspenseful music accompanies a few scenes.
  • MUSIC (INAPPROPRIATE)
  • None.
  • PROFANITY
  • At least 5 "f" words, 10 "s" words, 1 slang term for breasts (the "t" word), 5 hells, 4 damns, 3 S.O.B.'s, 2 asses and 4 uses of "G-damn," 2 uses each of "Oh Jesus" and "Oh my God" and 1 use each of "Jesus," "Christ," "Oh Christ," "Oh God," "By God," and "Jesus Christ" as exclamations.
  • SEX/NUDITY
  • Trent stops traffic in the middle of a one lane bridge, strips until he's naked, and then dives into a river. We see several shots of male full frontal nudity as well as several glimpses of his bare butt.
  • Clare is having an affair with Brett. In one scene he stoops down to help her pick weeds from the lawn and puts his hand underneath her dress and between her legs. In another, Devon walks in and sees her mother in ecstacy as Brett has oral sex with her (we only see him under her dress in the kitchen, but do see and hear her pleasured reactions).
  • Devon sneaks up to Trent's trailer where we hear some sexual sounds and then see Trent and a woman kissing on his bed. Both are nude and we (and Devon) see the sides of their bare butts along with her bare breasts.
  • Devon and Trent playfully "moon" two fishermen (her father and Nash), but we only see their bare butts from a long distance.
  • In a scene that's innocently sensual, Devon shows Trent her chest-long scar (and makes him touch it and he's properly reluctant at first, but she laughs off any sexual connotations) and then has him show her his shotgun scar on his belly (that she then touches).
  • SMOKING
  • Trent smokes often throughout the film while Nash smokes a few times.
  • TENSE FAMILY SCENES
  • Devon doesn't follow her parents' instructions and lies to them in one scene.
  • Trent gets mad at his father in a brief scene.
  • Upset about the way her father treated Trent, Devon retaliates by putting cookout food in his toolbox and then peeing on his car. Later, she repeatedly holds a gun on him, threatening to shoot (after her father has severely beaten up Trent).
  • TOPICS TO TALK ABOUT
  • Class differences among people.
  • Devon's heart condition and her chest long scar.
  • VIOLENCE
  • Trent tells a story about some local police who beat him up and then shot him with a shotgun when he tried to defend himself (we don't see any of that).
  • Devon and Trent steal two chickens from a nearby farm (for dinner) and, of course, have to kill them first (we don't see any of that).
  • A neighborhood boy steals things from the neighborhood (street lampshades, Brett's CD's, etc...) and then destroys them in his own little make believe, mock war.
  • Brett starts Trent's gas powered weed trimmer and holds it precariously close to Trent's face (and it does just nick him). They then struggle, and Sean's Doberman attacks Sam and bites him on the arm. Trent then kisses Sean, but in reality bites his lip, and moments later Trent crashes his truck into the backside of their car.
  • Upset that his lawn mower is ruined, Trent takes a metal casing and repeatedly smashes it onto the mower (and Devon later repeatedly kicks and stomps the mower).
  • Trent and Devon playfully chase after Sean's Doberman through a field in their truck. Trent (who was earlier bitten by the dog), then purposefully hits it with the truck and then "puts it out of its misery" by repeatedly whacking it with a piece of lumber.
  • Nash punches Trent in the gut and Morton then steps on Trent's hand. Trent is then kicked in the face and gut several times and Morton then hits Trent with a log. As Sean prepares to hit Trent again, Devon shoots him in the gut and then holds the gun on her father and Nash.



  • Reviewed June 2 , 1998

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