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YEAR OF THE DOG: DVD

SYNOPSIS:
Loner Peggy's (Molly Shannon) world comes crashing down when her beloved pet Beagle, Pencil (Jimmy) meets a mysterious demise in her neighbour's (John C. Reilly) yard. Pencil was her only true friend, and Peggy finds it hard to adjust, even when she meets animal carer Newt (Peter Sarsgaard), who introduces her to the world of animal welfare. Horrified by the cruel treatment of some animals in farms and laboratories, Peggy transforms into a crusader. Her colleague Layla (Regina King) tries to encourage her to find a man, and her brother Pier (Thomas McCarthy) and his over protective wife Bret (Laura Dern) also try to help in their limited way, but Peggy has to find her own path - after some stumbling.

Review by Louise Keller:
Animals are like us - they live for love, says Peter Sarsgaard's animal rights activist Newt. But after Peggy (Molly Shannon) loses her beloved beagle Pencil, she valiantly begins searching for something or someone to fill the void. The discovery of the love of your life is the focus of this unusual film, whose tone flits from the heartfelt to the flippant to the darkly philosophical. As a result, our emotions are scattered here there and everywhere, despite a few engaging doggie moments and a couple of interesting character snapshots.

Everyone dumps on Peggy. At work, there's her insecure boss Robin (Josh Pais) who needs constant reassurance; her sassy best friend Layla (Regina King), who is trying to make her ladies' man boyfriend Don (Dale Godboldo) commit; her peace-loving brother Pier (Thomas McCarthy) and fur-loving wife Bret (Laura Dern), who are obsessively protective of their two young children. Pencil's untimely death becomes the catalyst for change, as Peggy searches for some meaning. Suddenly there are two men in her life - and neither is what she expects. Her neighbour Al (John C. Reilly) has a penchant for hunting moose, and seems to come alive when talking about his adrenalin rush before the kill. On the other end of the scale, animal obsessed Sarsgaard's Newt seems to loves everyone - men, women and animals. She discovers he is aptly named, however.

Shannon delivers an endearing pivotal performance as the toothy, middle aged vegan-spinster who goes from no-love to too-much-love in a matter of weeks. The dogs are cute, and I chuckled when Peggy drives 15 canine friends from the pound to her tidy (but not for long) apartment, which they promptly take over. I also like Dern's performance as the superficial, hypocritical wife who shelters her children from life's harshness. But despite writer director Mike White's ability to make the heartfelt moments count (we acutely feel Peggy's devastating loss), the film never makes the grade. The title prompts great expectations for animal lovers; the result is a bit like a doggie bag with a taste of everything, but not enough of anything.

DVD special features include an audio commentary by Mike White and Molly Shannon, a making of featurette, deleted scenes with optional commentary and gag reel.

Published February 21, 2008

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CRITICAL COUNT
Favourable: 0
Unfavourable: 1
Mixed: 1

YEAR OF THE DOG: DVD (M)
(US, 2007)

CAST: Molly Shannon, Peter Sarsgaard, Regina King, John C. Reilly, Laura Dern, Jimmy the Dog

PRODUCER: Mike White, Jack Black, Dedde Gardner, Ben LeClair,

DIRECTOR: Mike White

SCRIPT: Mike White

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Tim Orr

EDITOR: Dody Dorn

MUSIC: Christophe Beck

PRODUCTION DESIGN: Daniel Bradford

RUNNING TIME: 97 minutes

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Paramount Australia

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: October 11, 2007

PRESENTATION: Widescreen

SPECIAL FEATURES: Commentary by Mike White and Molly Shannon, The making of featurette, deleted scenes with optional commentary, gag reel

DVD DISTRIBUTOR: Paramount

DVD RELEASE: February 21, 2008







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