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"DOG DAYS"
(2018) (Nina Dobrev, Vanessa Hudgens) (PG)


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QUICK TAKE:
Dramedy: The lives of various residents of Los Angeles intersect thanks to the dogs in their lives.
PLOT:
It's the dog days of summer in Los Angeles and morning TV talk show host Elizabeth (NINA DOBREV) is taking her dog to pet therapist Danielle (TIG NOTARO), supposedly for the pooch's help, but it's really for her what with having discovered her boyfriend was cheating on her. In her mind, things go from bad to worse when she then learns that former NFL player Jimmy Johnston (TONE BELL) has been hired as her first-ever co-host, a troubling development considering how they earlier clashed during a live, on-air interview.

Coffee shop barista Tara (VANESSA HUDGENS) doesn't own a dog, but finds a stray and ends up taking it to veterinarian Dr. Mike (MICHAEL CASSIDY). He's so handsome that women flock to his clinic just to see him, all of which means that Garrett (JON BASS), who runs a dog rescue shelter and secretly has a crush on Tara, realizes he probably now has no chance with her.

Married couple Ruth (JESSICA ST. CLAIR) and Greg (THOMAS LENNON) are expecting twins and thus ask Ruth's not always reliable brother, Dax (ADAM PALLY), to dog sit for them, something that Elizabeth's friend, Daisy (LAUREN LAPKUS), does for a living. Retired English professor Walter (RON CEPHAS JONES) is devastated by his beloved dog having run away, leaving him all alone since his wife passed away a few years ago. Accordingly, and despite a bit of an early antagonistic relationship, he accepts the help of 16-year-old pizza delivery boy Tyler (FINN WOLFHARD) to help find his pet.

Little do they know that she's been found by Amelia (ELIZABETH PHOENIX CARO), a little girl who's just been adopted by Grace (EVA LONGORIA) and Kurt (ROB CORDDRY) and has finally come out of her withdrawn shell upon the dog coming into her life. As they and the others go about their lives, their dogs end up causing some of their paths to intersect.

OUR TAKE: 5.5 out of 10
At the end of his long career in Hollywood, director Garry Marshall -- best known for creating the hit TV shows "Happy Days" and "Mork & Mindy" before going on to helm popular movies such as "Pretty Woman" -- delivered three cinematic dogs that left a bad taste in many a reviewer's mouth and mind.

I know some viewers enjoyed "Valentine's Day," "Mother's Day" and "New Year's Eve," but I found them schmaltzy and clumsily handled "Love, Actually" wannabes. The latter, as you probably know, is the terrific ensemble romantic dramedy where multiple storylines intersected around Christmas.

Before Mr. Marshall was able to unleash the likes of "Fourth of July," "Thanksgiving," "Easter" and "Halloween" (reconfigured as a rom-com), he passed away in 2016, thus seemingly leaving the rest of the holidays unscathed from such cinematically bungled offerings.

Perhaps sensing that calendar-based movie void, screenwriters Elissa Matsueda and Erica Oyama apparently decided to pick up that mantle and pen a script not really about a holiday per se, but instead a set (and usually hot) period of the year. The result -- directed by Ken Marino (who made his debut with the misfire "How to Be a Latin Lover") -- certainly looks to be from the Marshall mold, and at least the one trailer I've seen makes the offering appear lame at best if not downright bad.

But you know what? Despite suffering from some of the same flaws that bedeviled Marshall's later pics, I didn't find them as egregious here in "Dog Days." Maybe it just caught me in the right mood and I might not have the same (or a similar) reaction if I ever see it again. Whatever the case, while there are various issues at hand (or should that be "paw"), I actually enjoyed the flick -- and was emotionally moved enough times -- to give it a slight recommendation.

Like those Marshall films, there are simply too many characters and storylines for the pic's nearly two-hour runtime. In no particular order, we have a morning TV talk show host (Nina Dobrev) who must not only contend with discovering her boyfriend is cheating on her, but also suddenly being forced to have a co-host (Tone Bell playing a former NFL player) with whom she doesn't get along. Accordingly, she repeatedly sees an expensive dog shrink (Tig Notaro sort of doing the Jane Lynch style deadpan comedy) who's obviously treating her more than her dog.

Then there's a barista (Vanessa Hudgens) who doesn't have a pooch, but finds one back behind the coffee shop where she's otherwise oblivious to the repeated if completely and awkwardly bungled flirtations of a dog rescue center owner (Jon Bass). Instead, she's suddenly fixated on veterinarian Dr. Mike (Michael Cassidy) whose last name is never stated but surely must be McDreamy based on how lots of female pet owners flock to his clinic.

A married couple (Jessica St. Clair and Thomas Lennon) who are about to have twins pass off their dog to her musician brother (Adam Pally) for some extended dog-sitting (that calls for a repeated gag of him smuggling the pooch into his no-pets-allowed apartment building in his large music case, not to mention the accidental canine ingestion of a special sort of band brownie).

Then there's another couple (Eva Longoria and Rob Corddry) who don't have a dog, but have just adopted a little girl (Elizabeth Phoenix Caro) who's withdrawn way down into her emotional shell. That is, until a dog comes into their lives and perks up the kid. Little do they know that it belongs to a widower (a terrific Ron Cephas Jones) who has a teen pizza delivery boy (Finn Wolfhard) trying to help him find the wayward canine.

A few other minor characters are present, but they only add to the pileup and inability of the writers or director to give any one set of them or storyline enough attention. That said, it all goes down quite easily if predictably, and the dogs are entertaining in their own right (and thankfully don't talk, although we once again have to hear the obligatory "Who Let the Dogs Out" song).

The dog days of summer have traditionally been the dumping ground for Hollywood studios to unleash their cinematic howlers on the sunburned masses, and this one would seem to fit the bill from a cursory glance. Thankfully, enough of it works in hitting the right notes that I think viewers looking for some escapism before vacations are over and schools crank up again will be entertained just enough. "Dog Days" rates as a 5.5 out of 10.




Reviewed August 3, 2018 / Posted August 8, 2018


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