Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Must Love Dogs

Must Love Dogs (Director: Gary David Goldberg)

Goldberg might sound familiar to all you "Family Ties" fans out there. He was that series' creator, exec producer, and writer. Goldberg's main success has come from TV. This is his first directorial movie since 1989's Dad. Based on the novel by Claire Cook.

You can wipe the slate clean when it comes to romantic comedies. The producers and writers of such fare rarely have to do anything special to get a date-night audience to come watch, especially if the two leads are appealing. Here, we get sure-bet John Cusack and the immensely likeable and hot Diane Lane, and then you throw in another romantic comedy staple in Dermot Mulroney, already having starred in this year's The Wedding Date. With Mulroney, you get the smoldering, woman-swooning sexiness. With Cusack, you get that everyman that guys want to be and girls want to marry (after, of course, they sample the smoldering hot guy with no other positive attributes). So--appealing leads + romantic comedy = box office gold.

So yeah, you can forget that you've seen this story before--the guy gets the girl, loses the girl, then wins her back, although it's more girl gets guy, loses guy, wins him back, but you can easily gender-switch the conflicts interchangeably. In this case, we have preschool teacher Sarah (Lane), a recently-divorced hot chick who gets put on an internet dating service by one of her sisters (Elizabeth Perkins), and boat-builder Jake (Cusack), who gets the same treatment from his lawyer friend (Ben Shenkman). Sarah and Jake are destined to meet, and get off on the wrong foot. Meanwhile, Sarah has some attraction towards a student's father (Mulroney), and let the love triangle begin!

It's a terrible mess of a movie, really. We have Sarah's father Bill (Christopher Plummer), a widower who is also trying the internet for love, and has met a variety of competitors including Dolly (Stockard Channing). That subplot can often interfere with the love triangle shenanigans, and make the 90-minute movie seem a lot longer than it is. Then there's the token gay guy who has replaced the token black guy. Plus, there's all those usual, painful romantic comedy moments that cause the would-be lovers to separate, as we've seen a hundred times. But this is the summer, and the studios have to fill the release slate with a romantic comedy as if no one has ever seen one before--and they will likely succeed. There needs to be something couples can watch, so why not this? Even though the secret is out about Wedding Crashers, that it's not a raunch-fest, and the big hit Hitch came out earlier this year, this will appear new to a date-night crowd.


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