Dog Days – Movie Review

By Leslie C. Halpern

In the tradition of ensemble dramatic comedies including He’s Just Not That Into You (2009), Valentine’s Day (2010), and  New Year’s Eve (2011), this new film focuses on the dog days of late summer when the lives of attractive Los Angeles residents with shiny white teeth interconnect through their adorably quirky dogs.

Adam Pally co-stars in the ensemble cast of Dog Days. Copyright 2018 LD Entertainment.

The stories include a Gertrude-Stein obsessed barista named Tara (Vanessa Hudgens) who lusts after a handsome veterinarian (Ryan Hansen), but fails to notice a daily customer (Jon Bass) who’s fallen in love with her. When Tara finds a tiny chihuahua hiding behind the coffee shop, she learns that the vet is more fascinated with himself than with animals, and her coffee customer conveniently runs an animal adoption business.

Interconnected Stories

Tara lives in a no-pets-allowed apartment building, which explains why she can’t adopt the dog and turns little “Gertrude” over to the animal adoption business. Her crazy musician neighbor, Dax (Adam Pally), sneaks in a huge canine that he’s watching for his sister, who’s pregnant with twins. Dax’s experiences with the slobbering, ill-mannered mutt are among the funniest in the movie.

There’s also Elizabeth (Nina Dobrev), a television anchorwoman who visits a dog therapist (Tig Nataro) to help herself get past a bad breakup. There’s turmoil on the television set, as well, when a former athlete, Jimmy (Tone Bell), is hired as her co-anchor without her knowledge or consent. When their dogs form a canine companionship, their owners do likewise.

Happily Ever After

Other interconnected stories involve a flaky dogwalker, a lonely widower who lost his dog, a dog-loving pizza delivery boy, and a withdrawn adopted child who desperately needs a pet. With so many stories, it’s a sure bet that people will fall in love, tempers will flare, good guys will get rewarded, bad guys will get punished, and at least one dog is going to die. As with the other ensemble films that came before it, these stories have only two hours to be resolved and reach the happily ever after endings.

The least funny story may be the most compelling. Eva Longoria and Rob Corddry portray the new parents of an adopted little girl. The child takes no delight in any of the beautiful toys and luxury items they purchased for her. She’s unresponsive to their attempts to nurture, engage, or entertain her, and only finds happiness with the chubby pug that mysteriously enters their life. Longoria delivers a heartfelt performance in which her self-doubt, eagerness to please, and longing to love threaten to overtake her at any given moment. Yet, they don’t, and she remains a strong character who keeps the long-term goal of creating a family as the primary motivation for everything she says and does.

Overall, Dog Days is lighthearted entertainment compared to the big-budget special effects summer blockbusters. It’s a fluffy little poodle among cinematic pit bulls.

Dog Days

  • Dogs help bring people together in Los Angeles through interconnected comical and dramatic stories.
  • Stars: Nina Dobrev, Vanessa Hudgens, Finn Wolfhard, Lauren Lapkus, Eva Longoria, Jessica Lowe, Adam Pally, Thomas Lennon, Tone Bell
  • Director: Ken Marino
  • Genre: Comedy
  • Run Time: 112 minutes
  • MPAA Rating: PG (for rude and suggestive comment, and for language)

Leslie C. Halpern is the author of 200 Love Lessons from the Movies and the newly released Scantily Clad Truths.

Mother’s Day – Movie Review

By Leslie C. Halpern

As in director Garry Marshall’s previous films New Year’s Eve and Valentine’s Day, in which interconnecting stories preceding a holiday come together at the end, Mother’s Day offers more of the same. This time it’s a collection of ridiculously attractive mothers of varying ages living in Atlanta, Georgia, who deal with various changes in their maternal roles. Lightweight and predictable for the most part, the stories contain a few funny scenes and memorable moments.

Jennifer Aniston stars in Mother's Day. Photo copyright 2016 Open Road.

Jennifer Aniston stars in Mother’s Day. Photo copyright 2016 Open Road.

A Lovely Goofball

At the center of the story is Sandy (Jennifer Aniston), lovely to look at and a good mother but overall a goofball, whose handsome ex-husband, Henry (Timothy Olyphant), marries a stunningly beautiful younger woman (Shay Mitchell) devoted to being a loving stepmother. If only the new bride weren’t quite so young and her shorts weren’t quite so short, perhaps Sandy could accept her. But as things stand, she feels more than a little threatened by her new replacement. While part of her recognizes the value in having a loving step parent for her children, a larger part of her resents the younger woman’s seemingly perfect appearance and personality. Although many of the performances here are forced, forgettable, or phoned-in, Aniston’s sincere portrayal is the heart of the film.

A Handsome Widower

Audiences will instantly recognize the perfect match for Sandy: a handsome widower with two daughters to balance out her two boys. Bradley (Jason Sudeikis) and his daughters still grieve over the loss of his pretty wife (Jennifer Garner), a marine who didn’t make it back home. Bradley coincidentally owns the gym where Sandy works out, but her odd behavior, which usually manifests only in his presence, makes him hesitant to woo the lonely divorcee.

Two Beautiful Sisters

There’s also a storyline concerning two beautiful sisters, Jesse (Kate Hudson) and Gabi (Sarah Chalke), who live next door to each other in a nice Atlanta neighborhood, after escaping from their racist folks back home in Texas. A secret from her parents, Jesse is married to an Indian man with whom she has a child. Gabi also keeps secrets: She lives with her same-sex life partner in happily wedded bliss. When their parents show up unexpectedly, secrets and lies become exposed in less-than hilarious ways, such as bigoted comments, a man in a lady’s bathrobe, and a wild ride in a runaway RV. Although the racist behavior is meant to be comical because of their out-of-touch generation, it’s often more disturbing than endearing. It’s easy to see where this subplot is going, once we recognize the true love between the two couples and the unpleasant stereotypes presented by the parents.

A Gorgeous Young Mother

The final story concerns a young couple, Kristin (Britt Robertson), the gorgeous young mother of an infant, and her (naturally handsome) live-in boyfriend and baby daddy, Zack (Jack Whitehall). He’s a wanna-be standup comic working at a bar until he gets his big break. Although Jack has repeatedly asked Kristin to marry him, she refuses because of her identity issues. Given away at birth, she longs to meet her birth mother. This brings us to Julia Roberts, who stars as Miranda, an infomercial host and best-selling author. Cold, aloof, and actually looking less glamorous than usual in an ugly red wig, she chose her career over traditional motherhood. Once again, connecting the dots is fairly simple. Is Miranda really Kristin’s mother? Will Kristin marry Zack before he runs out of patience? Will the couple wed in a fancy church or the bar where Zack works?

If you’ve seen New Year’s Eve or Valentine’s Day (or nearly any rom-com), you already know the answers. Busy moms may enjoy this film after a nice dinner out and a drink or two, but this latest holiday cinematic ensemble provides merely a superficial feast for the eyes, with slim pickings for the mind.

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Mother’s Day

  • This ensemble comedy presents several interwoven stories about mothers during the week before Mother’s Day.
  • Stars: Jennifer Aniston, Kate Hudson, Julia Roberts, Jason Sudeikis, Timothy Olyphant, Shay Mitchell, Britt Robertson, Jack Whitehall, Hector Elizondo, Sarah Chalke, Margo Martindale, Aasif Mandvi, Robert Pine, Jennifer Garner
  • Director: Garry Marshall
  • Genre: Comedy
  • Run Time: 118 minutes
  • MPAA Rating: PG-13 (for language and some suggestive material)