Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (October 26, 2016)
Sometimes I feel befuddled by a movie’s “straight to video” status. I look at the talent involved and the nature of the project and wonder why the film didn’t get a theatrical exhibition.
Sometimes I see a direct-to-video effort and think I know exactly why it failed to hit multiplexes. In that category comes 2016’s Who Gets the Dog?, a movie that smells as direct-to-video as anything I’ve seen in a long time.
After six years of marriage, Olive (Alicia Silverstone) and Clay (Ryan Kwanten) decide to divorce. For the most part, they do so on an amicable basis, but one complication arises: their dog Wesley.
Both Olive and Clay adore Wesley, and both want to take sole possession of him. They can’t settle this disagreement, so they go to a hearing to establish custody. A judge demands 60 days to decide, so both Clay and Olive work their hardest to win over both the judge and Wesley.
As a lifelong dog-lover – and currently the proud friend of my own two pooches – I’ve dealt with the possibility of a situation such as the one described here. Given my intense fondness for canines and my general familiarity with the subject matter, Dog should’ve been right up my alley.
Personal connection to a story can only take me so far, though. Despite my potential to identify with the characters and situations of Dog, the end result never threatened to connect with me.
That’s largely because the movie plays everything for the cutest of all possible cute situations. No, I ended expect this light rom-com to offer Kramer vs. Kramer with canines, but I hoped it might give me something with a little wit, charm and/or cleverness.
Unfortunately, Dog completely lives down to expectations, as it offers every cliché in the book and demonstrates an absolute lack of inventiveness. If you’ve ever seen a romantic comedy, you know exactly how the story will progress.
Heck, if you’ve never seen a rom-com – or even if you’ve been in a coma since 1972 – you’ll easily anticipate every aspect of Dog. The movie takes a series of trite paths and never bothers with any form of creativity.
Dog barely attempts an actual plot. It uses the “60-day trial period” as a thin excuse to put its lead characters in one cheesy stab at comedy after another. None of these instances bear any connection to reality – or to entertainment, as they seem relentlessly limp and silly.
None of the actors help the material either. Silverstone seems sour much of the time, as though she can’t believe she’s stuck in such a terrible movie, while Kwanten overacts relentlessly. He shows zero skill as a comedic actor and makes already lousy material even worse.
Well, at least we get to watch some cute pooches. That’s not enough to sustain this thoroughly insipid project, though.