Review

Must Love Dogs Review

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Jul 29, 2005 | 4:13am EDT

Sarah (Diane Lane) is a just-divorced pre-school teacher whom seemingly everyone in the world wants to set up on a date much to her chagrin. She insists on staying out of the horrid dating scene until her meddlesome sister (Elizabeth Perkins) takes it upon herself to put a listing on a matchmaking Web site under the canine-friendly heading sharing the movie's title. Cusack's Jake a morose boat builder who's also goaded by a well-meaning but shrewish friend replies. After an initial rendezvous and a couple of dates everything is going swimmingly until-in what gently passes for a complication- another man steps into her life: Bobby (Dermot Mulroney) an athletic single father of one of her young students and straight-up nice guy. For just a while there it's hard to tell which suitor she'll end up with…unless you've seen these kinds of movies before: Man and woman meet in a cute way spend time together while insisting they're in love with different people (whom only we can see are bad for them) only to come to their senses at the last minute and race across town to stop the other from getting on a train. But quite simply it works often like a charm. In a movie that seems patently crafted not to offend it's the stars who save the day but Diane Lane and John Cusack are coasting through this one; they hardly turn in noteworthy performances. Lane has fire for sure--Unfaithful is the obvious example and everyone remembers Cusack suffering heartache to the point of hoisting a boom box over his head in Say Anything. Neither has much to work with. In what is apparently a robust trend among movies these days another set of older actors are given their due by playing the parents--in this case it's Christopher Plummer as Lane's swinging bachelor father and his main squeeze played by Stockard Channing. While neither as sharp as Bewitcheds' Michael Caine and Shirley MaClaine nor as funny as Meet the Fockers' Dustin Hoffman and Barbra Streisand (all of whom to be fair were in bigger broader comedies) they fill out the screen nicely. Perkins fits the role of the jaded diffuse older sister better than she might like to. Romantic comedies are not often known for the direction although some are known for their directors. TV fans may remember Gary David Goldberg as the creator of Family Ties (or at least they'll remember his voice from the close of every show "Sit Ubu sit. Good Dog.") Like Ephron and Garry Marshall he's a pro. Not a scene nor a rhythm is out of place nothing sticks out like a sore thumb the pace is neither too fast nor too slow. It doesn't ask questions that it can't answer. But what about the questions it doesn't ask? Maybe this movie could use a few threads sticking out a few rings on the coffee table. Maybe it needed a ratings makeover. At PG-13 it's squeaky clean except for one extended and funny scene about condoms. But here's the rub - teenagers aren't going anywhere near this picture anyway - they're across the multiplex trying to sneak into Wedding Crashers.

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