Friday

MUST LOVE DOGS MOVIE REVIEW/ ONLINE DATING LINKS

Consider these dating sites as you read about Must Love Dogs.

By Carrie Rickey
Philadelphia Inquirer
July 29, 2005

On what planet does Diane Lane, she of the double-dip-sundae bod, whipped-cream face, and cinnamon hair, go dateless? Only on planet Hollywood, where she is routinely cast as an underappreciated wife or overlooked single.

Must Love Dogs stars the appealing Lane and simpatico John Cusack as neurotic singletons, both recently divorced, whose family (hers) and friends (his) push them back into the dating game. But the rules have changed.

Last time they were on the market Sarah (Lane) and Jake (Cusack) were picked up pronto. Now a little shelf-worn, they are advised to market themselves with online dating services. Even Sarah's dad (Christopher Plummer), a widower, uses the Internet - with considerably more success than his daughter.

Individually, the actors are endearing. But together in this charmless Gary David Goldberg sitcomedy, inspired by the Claire Cook novel, they are as oddly paired as chalk and cheese. In doggie terms, Cusack is an overeager, Cujo-scaled Newfoundland courting Lane, a balky, pocket-size Pekingese. (We can be happy there are no jokes about making heels heel or roll over.)

The one successful match made by this film is that between the studio's marketing department and www.perfectmatch.com. The Internet-dating site is given such prominent (and repeated) product placement that you might mistake the film for an infomercial.

Similarly, You've Got Mail could be deemed merely a promotional vehicle for AOL's e-mail service. Yet unlike Dogs, that film was something more than a collection of one-liners in search of a plot. That's the downside of the mercifully short Must Love Dogs.

The upside is a parade of supporting pirouettes that give the oomphless film some punch. There is Plummer, who auditions his Internet blind dates three at a time. There is Elizabeth Perkins as the take-charge older sister who posts Sarah's dating specs on the Web. There is Stockard Channing, dripping in turquoise and ringlets, as one in Plummer's harem. And there is Jordana Spiro, as a bubbly nymphomaniac who brings to mind Goldie Hawn, circa 1967.

It is not a good sign when a moviegoer is happier to see the supporting player than the lead.

Goldberg, creator of Family Ties and Spin City, uses the supporting players for the laughs and leaves his leads with little to do. It's a missed opportunity: This would-be comedy about the challenge of reducing a complex person into a high-concept blurb (i.e., Voluptuous preschool teacher seeks playmate) gives us the basics, but not the personalities or the fun.