Retro Review: Must Love Dogs

I don’t know what it is about the romantic comedy but it’s a very stale genre. It’s predictable, routine and well, very formulaic. And once again here we are.

“Must Love Dogs” stars Diane Lane as Sarah, a recently divorced single trying to pick up the pieces of her life. Sarah is getting back into the dating world with the help of her pushy sisters, Carol (Elizabeth Perkins) and Christine (Ali Hillis). Her sisters insist that she has to get online that it’s the dating world’s newest thing. After a lot of trial and error with lots of blind-dates, Sarah’s two best prospects come down to craftsman, Jake (John Cusack) and hot single dad, Bobby (Dermot Mulroney). Who will win Sarah’s heart?

“Must Love Dogs” was written and directed by TV heavyweight Gary David Goldberg, who created such successful sitcoms as “Family Ties” and “Spin City”. Goldberg adapted the screenplay from the novel by Claire Cook.

You can really see a lot of Goldberg’s influences throughout the film but it seems like he was looking to create a series not a feature film. The reason why I say this is take the film’s cast. You have a family with a two sisters, one brother, a constantly promiscuous father, the father’s three dates, a quirky co-worker, two gay friends and oodles of blind-dates. Was it really necessary to have this huge of a supporting cast even if it did include actors like Perkins, Christopher Plummer, Stockard Channing and Julie Gonzalo? The only excuse I can think of is that you are preparing for the long haul.

Then on top of this huge cast, you have the film’s routinely dull story.

Ok, I have to admit I liked the film’s two romantic leads, Lane and Cusack. The biggest problem I had was why didn’t the film just focus on these two then the oodles of pointless dialogue from the humongous supporting cast.

These are two poignant and capable actors who could have been great together if they could escape the film’s formula.

I also really liked the return of the always enjoyable Elizabeth Perkins. Where has she been hiding? I also really enjoyed Stockard Channing.

The only found real scene I found rather funny was the whole quest for the condom scenario. It was fresh witty and unexpected unlike the rest of the film.

What makes a great romantic comedy these days are the ones that take risks. Some of the better romantic comedies in the past couple years have been intelligent and engaging as well as funny. Films like “About a Boy”, “Love Actually” and “Before Sunset” are perfect examples of how the genre endures. Then there is “Must Love Dogs”, “How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days” and “Uptown Girls” who are just the same recycled formula.

“Must Love Dogs” has two great leads but an over-whelming supporting cast and a formulaic story just don’t allow for the leads to thrive. Or maybe it’s that I am a cat lover.

(2 out of 5)

So Says the Soothsayer.

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