Year of the Dog
Someone call animal control! This dog is being abused!

Theatrical Release Date: 05/04/2007
Director: Mike White
Cast: Molly Shannon, Peter Sarsgaard, Regina King, John C. Reilly, Laura Dern, Thomas McCarthy

I’m sure it will come as no surprise that I have never thought much of Molly Shannon as an actress. Really the surprising thing to me was that she continues to find work and that it isn’t just in slapstick comedies made by the cast of Saturday Night Live.

Yet here she is again in “Year of the Dog”, the directorial debut of Mike White, probably best known for writing “Chuck & Buck”, “The Good Girl”, “Orange County” and “The School of Rock”.

However, as is the case with much of White’s writing, the story isn’t a straight drama and the comedy comes more from the quirkiness of the characters than any standard set of jokes.

Shannon plays a woman who has always connected better with animals than people, substituting her love life with pets. After her beloved dog Pencil dies, she begins to explore real relationships with her neighbor (John C. Reilly) and a SPCA employee (Peter Sarsgaard).

From there, Shannon’s character becomes a Vegan animal activist, both attributes being taken to the extreme and even going so far as to traumatize one of her nieces with talk of the reality behind food production. Think “Fast Food Nation” without the scenes inside the factory.

The characters in “Year of the Dog” are all a little off-center and if I found myself in a social environment like the one depicted in this film, I’d like to ask for a lethal injection.

What amuses me the most is taking a look at the trailer for the film. Fans of White’s twisted sense of comedy will be turned off by Shannon (as should most people) and also they will reject the gooey sense of sentimentality expressed in the trailer.

However, the intended audience being targeted in the trailer will instead come to the theater and get sideswiped with a film that is anything but what they expected.

It’s like asking NASCAR fans to see a film about car racing only to end up with “Herbie Fully Loaded”.

Looking at this film overall, I found some of it funny and there were some sweet moments. However, my general disdain for Shannon and the weird path the film took involving animal activism turned me off overall.

The characters devolve more than they develop and what begins as a semi-sweet look at people who can’t connect well with other people ends up being more like a farce played with a straight face. If you can imagine that, I’m either impressed or worried about you.

I’m going to unleash a 2 out of 5 on “Year of the Dog” and unless you’re a big fan of his more independent work (“Chuck & Buck” being the most akin to this), there’s just not much to like here.