Must Love Dogs
Mrs. Frosty seemed to be shrinking from the warm, summer night.

Theatrical Release Date: 07/29/2005
Director: Gary David Goldberg
Cast: Diane Lane, John Cusack

In the midst of summer movies chock-full of explosions, super powers and the fall of human civilization, comes “Must Love Dogs”. This romantic comedy starring Diane Lane and John Cusack tells the tale of Sarah (Lane), a newly divorced pre-school teacher whose over-involved family tries to get her back into the dating scene with the help of some Internet personal ads. In a surprise twist, Jake (Cusack), also newly single, answers the ad and through a series of missteps and happy accidents, they find a new, stronger love in each other. If you think I gave anything away, this must be your first romantic comedy.

Along the way, you are introduced to the comic foibles and heartfelt weaknesses of each character’s social circles, consisting of Elizabeth Perkins, Christopher Plummer, Dermot Mulroney, Glenn Howerton and Stockard Channing. Their side stories help keep the film from being too myopic and provide for some gentle humor while you’re waiting for Sarah and Jake to figure out what the audience did in the first ten minutes.

Which bring me to the inescapable point that “Must Love Dogs” is so formulaic, I think the writers of “How to Write a Romantic Comedy in 30 days” are in the process of filing suit. While some of the dialogue is witty and Cusack continues to prove he’s perhaps the best ever at spouting off long, breathless dissertations on love and life, this film failed to do anything really original or lasting. Perhaps the most novel thing about “Dogs” is that Cusack is never caught in the rain. He plays a boat-builder and I don’t think he even gets wet. Weird.

In any case, neither Cusack nor Lane are asked to do anything too far off their bread and butter. She’s breathtaking and vulnerable and he’s charming and witty. Whichever side of the gender-specific fence you fall on, unless you’re evil or lying, you’ll probably want to date one, or both, of these characters. Writing this review, I feel like I could change the details and end up with one written for any of a dozen other romantic comedies.

And still, even after all that negativity, I’m going to recommend this film. Maybe I’m having an overly-sentimental moment, but I fell for everything they did in this film. I’m a hopeless romantic (on occasion) and while I generally root for unhappy endings, it’s also nice to see a cute, predictable piece of fluff now and then.

Also going for this film is a series of references to Dr. Zhivago, one of my all-time favorite films. If it’s missing from your movie repertoire, head to your nearest video store immediately. It is one of the best love stories ever put to celluloid and I can only hope “Dogs” brings a subtle awareness to this classic film.

If you’re faithfully dating anyone right now, and it’s not about to end, go check out this film and bring them along. You’ll probably get laid that night. And so I give this film a 3 out of 5 – because you’ll need three things to enjoy it: A pretty girl, a 6 pack of Old Style, and a condom. Remember kids, while John Cusack may not get caught in the rain in this film, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t wear your raincoat**.

**This review brought to you by the good people at Please Stop Making Babies Inc.