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Movie Review

Dog movies seem scientifically engineered to tug at our heartstrings. Ditto romantic comedies. Mash those two genres together, and what do you get? Dog Days, a rare PG-rated romcom chockful of meet cutes and cute dogs, as well as characters who've lost their dogs and other characters who've found them—and a few folks who find themselves along the way, too.

Elizabeth Daniels has it all: a successful career hosting WakeUp L.A., a loving boyfriend (Peter) and the dog they adopted together. One day she comes home to find her beau in bed with someone else. In a blink, Elizabeth's suddenly single. And it's hard to say who's sadder: Elizabeth or her depressed dog, Sam.

Enter former NFL star Jimmy Johnston, a guest on her show soon thereafter. He sassily shreds the morning-show script, leaving Elizabeth flustered and frazzled on air. She can't wait for the interview to end, but the viewing audience loves their chemistry. In fact, Elizabeth's boss decides he should become her new co-host. Of course, Jimmy has a dog, too: Brandy. And as Brandy and Sam get acquainted, so do Jimmy and Elizabeth—onscreen and off.

Elsewhere in L.A., barista Tara pines for a hunky veterinarian (Dr. Mike) even as a not-so-hunky regular customer (Garrett) pines for her. When Tara discovers a stray Chihuahua (whom she names Gertrude) that needs a home, Garrett sees his opportunity. Turns out he runs a dog shelter and would be more than happy to accommodate little Gertrude. Could I volunteer here? Tara wonders? Of course! Garrett gushes.

Then there's Walter. The retired UCLA English professor has lived a quiet life since his wife died. These days, his rotund pug, Mabel, is the apple of his eye. Until, that is, the day that a young pizza delivery guy, 16-year-old Tyler, inadvertently causes Mabel to run away …

… right into the arms of little Amelia at a nearby park. Amelia, who's perhaps 4, has just been adopted by Grace and Kurt, finally fulfilling long-deferred family dreams. Amelia, however, is a tough nut, treating her conscientious parents as little better than strangers. But when Amelia finds Mabel, whom she renames Mr. Snuggles, her heart blossoms. We know what's coming next: "Can we keep her?"

Slovenly single dude Dax, meanwhile, lives life on his own terms. He practices with his band (or not), goes out (or not), showers (or not) whenever he feels like it. His is not a dog-friendly existence. But his sister, Ruth, has just had twins. So she and her husband, Greg, insist that he take her neurotic dog, Charlie, off their hands for a while. (Never mind that Dax's apartment building has a strict no-dogs policy.)

If that sounds like a lot of dogs (and humans, too, for that matter), it is. And it's only a matter of time before a neighborhood crisis draws them all together into a serendipitously saccharine canine conclusion.

Positive Elements

Dog Days weaves all these characters and elements together with sweet messages emphasizing family and friendship.

Grace and Kurt delight in Amelia. They earnestly strive to do everything just right, to love her as much as they humanly can. But sometimes kids respond better to a different species altogether, and Mr. Snuggles' timely arrival opens up Amelia's heart. And when Grace and Kurt eventually learn that the dog belongs to a heartbroken elderly man, Walter, we watch sympathetically as they struggle to navigate the emotional and ethical tug-of-war that follows.

Speaking of Walter, he becomes something of a surrogate father figure to young Tyler, who lost his dad when he was 12. Tyler offers to help Walter find Mabel, Walter offers to tutor Tyler in English lit, and the two develop a touching and unlikely bond.

Dax, for his part, is pretty self-absorbed (albeit in innocuous, stereotypical "single guy" ways). But caring for Charlie after his sister gives birth helps him grow up a bit, so much so that he's reluctant to return the pooch when the time comes.

Tara also longs to make a meaningful contribution, and she doubts being a barista fits that bill: "I wish my work mattered," she tells Garrett. Later, she volunteers at Garrett's dog shelter, and she plays a key role in organizing a fundraiser to help keep him in business when the shelter's building is sold.

Spiritual Content

Dax opines, "I just feel like the universe is constantly telling me I shouldn't be helping anybody." A character sings "Amazing Grace" to someone who's grieving in a scene that's equal parts poignant and ridiculous.

Sexual Content

Elizabeth and Peter live together initially. But when she gets home early one day, Sam greets her with a pair of undergarments—not hers—in his mouth. She hears her boyfriend and his paramour giggling suggestively in the bedroom. Later, Elizabeth and Jimmy run into Peter and his new girlfriend at a pet shop. Elizabeth snaps, "I almost didn't recognize you with your clothes on." The girlfriend is saying something about a dog toy being "phallic shaped" when they encounter each other.

Elizabeth and Jimmy both have reasons to be wary about commitment, but we watch as their emotional walls slowly come down and their romance blossoms.

Amy, Elizabeth's makeup assistant at work, says of a guy, "He's really good at bowling, which I think means he's good at other things." She says of Jimmy, "Such a good face and body." In credit outtakes, Amy's shown in bed with a man, and she announces, "By the way, I'm pregnant. Sorry." Three characters, two women and a man, comment on how "hot" a male character is.

Several pairs of characters kiss. Dax takes a waitress (who's a fan of his band) home one night. The two begin making out (clearly intending to go further). Charlie (the dog) keeps intruding, however, making intimacy difficult. When Dax quips, "We could go to your place," she responds, "I live with my boyfriend."

Ruth, who is very pregnant and uncomfortable, says that Charlie has been "very needy. Just like a man, right?" Then she adds, "That's who did this to me. A man put two babies inside of me."

Someone is compared to a prostitute. We hear lyrics from Right Said Fred's hit "I'm Too Sexy" as well as the Spice Girls' song "Wannabe": "I'll tell you what I want, what I really really want/ … If you wanna be my lover." Someone refers to the R-rated sex comedy Exit to Eden.

Elizabeth, Tara and other female characters wear cleavage-baring and revealing outfits. We see a woman in a bathtub, covered with bubbles. (Only her shoulders are visible.)

At the dog shelter, an aroused dog moves suggestively against Garrett's leg.

Violent Content

Dax repeatedly smuggles Charlie into his apartment in a musical-instrument road case. At one point, Tara mistakenly believes he's trafficking someone trapped inside, and she attacks him with pepper spray, repeatedly shooting it into his eyes and face.

Elsewhere, we see a brief clip of the horror spoof movie Attack of the Killer Tomatoes. Someone gets tackled by another person. [Spoiler Warning] One dog is quite old and has to be euthanized.

Crude or Profane Language

Dax's band is named Frunk, which could evoke another f-word. Speaking of that, we hear one of those as well in an outtake scene at the very end of the credits. Also in the closing credits, we hear three utterances of the dog breed shih tzu used in a way that's obviously intended to mimic the s-word.

We also hear more than 25 misuses of God's name. There are two uses of "a--hole" and one of "a--." "H---" is likewise used three times. There's one use each of "d--n," "dangit" and "crap."

Drug and Alcohol Content

There's an allusion to Dax's drummer eating pot brownies and being stoned. (We don't see him consume those marijuana edibles, but his loopy expression communicates that he's high.) Later, Charlie eats some cannabis-laced confections, too, and ends up stoned and quite sick. Dax lets Charlie drink some of his beer as well.

Tara says of her job at a coffee shop, "I sell people an overpriced, legally addictive substance." She also observes, "Drunk people are generous people." We hear about a time Elizabeth apparently showed up to do her TV show tipsy from drinking schnapps, and her boss jokingly suggests she should do it again. "I'll get drunk right now!" Liz jokes back. A song lyric describes someone as being a "whiskey casualty." A hung-over professional clown says he and some other clown friends "hit it pretty hard last night."

Other Negative Elements

Ruth doesn't seem to be having a great pregnancy, which is an experience many women have. But Ruth mostly tends to complain about it, as well as saying some really unkind things to her husband about it. She quips that carrying twins is like "Indiana Jones running from that boulder. Except the boulder has to come out of me. How's that going to happen?" During labor, Ruth screams at her husband, "Greg, why did you do to this to me?!"

Later, Greg tells Dax, "Run. Just run, man. Whatever that thing is, it's not your sister anymore. Pregnancy has changed her." Ruth doesn't have good things to say about her husband, either, telling a friend, "Greg tries to get it right. But he gets it wrong 98% of the time." She also accuses him, "You weren't there for me." When Dax comes to visit after the babies are born, Greg cautions, "Don't say anything about her ankles."

Charlie passes gas near Dax's face. Dax tries to coax Charlie into urinating. The dog also eats a soiled diaper. Humans kiss their dogs several times (which may or may not be seen as a bad thing, depending on what you think of dogs). After a seagull defecates on Jimmy (which we don't see), he says it's "good luck."

Conclusion

In an interview with People magazine, Dog Days director Ken Marino said, "The world is a really hard place right now to deal with every day. I wanted to dive into a movie that would make people feel good for a while. And I am sucker for dogs.”

I think Marino has partially succeeded here. Dog Days is a gentle, feel-good film that delivers some solid messages. Chief among those is the movie's emphasis on adoption. It's terrific to see two conscientious parents striving to make a loving home for their newly adopted daughter. Bravo!

But …

I don't think Dog Days knows what it wants to be. I watched it expecting a family movie. I mean, films aimed directly at families are the only ones that earn a PG rating these days.

Dog Days doesn't quite get that job done. Yes, the canine antics here do at times produce the intended LOL moments. But watching from a parental point of view, I was frustrated with revealing outfits and sexual innuendo. References to pot brownies and alcohol bob about the script, too. I winced a bit every time someone said, "Oh my god" (which happened nearly 30 times). Other profanities turn up as well. By the end of the film, I concluded, This really isn't a movie for families with young children.

So what is it then?

People contributor Kelli Bender described it as "Love Actually meets Marley and Me." And that, I think, is about right. This is a really tame romcom with lots of dogs. It's not a dog movie for kids, in my estimation.

In summary, Dog Days feels like a missed opportunity. It deserves credit for avoiding the kinds of gratuitous gross-out gags that fill so many PG-13 and R-rated comedies these days. But in the areas where Dog Days goes astray, its content issues, ahem, dog it just enough to keep it from being a solid family movie-night choice.

Pro-social Content

Objectionable Content

Summary Advisory

Plot Summary

Christian Beliefs

Other Belief Systems

Authority Roles

Profanity/Violence

Kissing/Sex/Homosexuality

Discussion Topics

Additional Comments/Notes

Episode Reviews

Credits

Rating

Readability Age Range

Author

Cast

Eva Longoria as Grace; Nina Dobrev as Elizabeth Daniels; Vanessa Hudgens as Tara; Lauren Lapkus as Daisy; Thomas Lennon as Greg; Adam Pally as Dax; Ryan Hansen as Peter; Tone Bell as Jimmy Johnston; Jon Bass as Garrett; Finn Wolfhard as Tyler; Ron Cephas Jones as Walter; Jasmine Cephas Jones as Lola; Jessica Lowe as Amy; Jessica St. Clair as Ruth; Michael Cassidy as Dr. Mike; Tig Notaro as Danielle Thornhill; Lauren Lapkus as Daisy

Director

Ken Marino ( )

Distributor

LD Entertainment

Network

Performance

Record Label

Platform

Publisher

In Theaters

August 8, 2018

On Video

November 20, 2018

Year Published

Awards

Reviewer

Adam R. Holz

Content Caution

Kids
Teens
Adults
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