Dog Days (2018)

It’s much better to enjoy a film you thought you’d trash than to trash one you thought you’d enjoy, and so it is with Dog Days. Taking a cue from those schlocky holiday ensemble films from Garry Marshall, the movie features a diverse set of Angelenos who experience growth and setbacks in their personal and professional lives thanks to help from their pooches. It’s sentimental, predictable, and surprisingly fun and touching. I guess the maxim holds that dogs do make everything better.

Not all the stories are created equal; some are stronger than others here. Vanessa Hudgens and Jon Bass have the sweetest and most relatable storyline. She plays Tara, a barista with big dreams of, well, not being a barista while he plays Garrett, a guy with average looks but a very generous heart. I only comment on his appearance because dreamy vet Dr. Mike (Michael Cassidy) has an office across the street, and Tara and every pet-owning woman in Los Angeles seem to have eyes on this guy. When Garrett’s dog shelter is in sudden need of a new home, Tara finds purpose by helping him to organize a fundraiser, an event that in turn brings the rest of the dog-loving characters together.

She crosses paths with Dax (Adam Pally), another tenant in her building. A musician who subsists on a diet of Del Taco and disappointment, he has to care for his sister’s giant dog when she gives birth to twins. He might get kicked out of his pet-free apartment as a result, but the trade off is fair because she pays for his life. At the opposite end of the respectability scale is Walter (Ron Cephas Jones), a retired UCLA professor and widower. He befriends upstart pizza boy Tyler (Finn Wolfhard) when his wife’s beloved dog, Mabel, goes missing.

Meanwhile, Tyler’s teacher, Kurt (Rod Corddry), and his wife, Grace (Eva Longoria), are struggling as new parents to adopted daughter, Amelia (Elizabeth Caro). I’m not keen on the way the couple try to earn Amelia’s trust. Rather than seeing a child who is going through real trauma, they think entertaining her with song and dance numbers will help her open up. They get the most heartwarming conclusion though, proving that I’ll forgive a lot of things if cute kids and dogs are involved.

Elizabeth (Nina Dobrev) and Jimmy (Tone Bell) also have a satisfying story but one in need of a rewrite. She is an uptight TV personality and he is her new cohost brought in to add some spontaneity to their morning show. Dobrev and Bell are sizzling together and I’m a fan of the couple, but it’s an erratic relationship. They’re either throwing daggers or doing double dates with their dogs, and it’s never clear how things have progressed from one point to the next.

Nevertheless, the movie is a tidy little production with everyone in the cast pulling his or her weight. It satisfies those looking for light romance and comedy, and dogs. The pups aren’t the stars but facilitators for their human, and their selfless, loyal natures rub off. This is one where predictability is a reasonable price to pay for the emotional dividends. There’s the added bonus of Jasmine Cephas Jones, Hamilton’s OG Peggy/Maria, whose voice would be the soundtrack of every movie if my wishes came true.

“Made of Gold” by Jasmine Cephas Jones:

“Sweet Love” by Jasmine Cephas Jones:

Released: 2018
Prod: Mickey Liddell, Pete Shilaimon, Jennifer Monroe
Dir: Ken Marino
Writer: Elissa Matsueda, Erica Oyama
Cast: Nina Dobrev, Vanessa Hudgens, Adam Pally, Eva Longoria, Rob Corddry, Tone Bell, Jon Bass, Michael Cassidy, Thomas Lennon, Tig Notaro, Finn Wolfhard, Ron Cephas Jones, Jasmine Cephas Jones
Time: 113 min
Lang: English
Country: United States
Reviewed: 2019