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Mike White
Molly Shannon, Laura Dern, Regina King, Thomas McCarthy, Josh Pais, John C. Reilly, Peter Sarsgaard
Writing Credits:
Mike White

Has the world left you a stray?

You wouldn't think that having your beloved dog pass away could be a good thing, but for Peggy (Molly Shannon) it is just the beginning of a series of positive events that change her life forever. The directing debut of screenwriter/actor Mike White (School of Rock, The Good Girl).

Box Office:
Opening Weekend
$133.335 thousand on 33 screens.
Domestic Gross
$1.538 million.

Rated PG-13

Widescreen 1.85:1/16x9
English Dolby Digital 5.1
Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 93 min.
Price: $29.99
Release Date: 8/28/07

• Audio Commentary with Writer/Director Mike White and Actor Molly Shannon
• “A Special Breed of Comedy: The Making of Year of the Dog” Featurette
• “Being Molly Shannon” Featurette
• “Mike White Unleashed” Featurette
• “Special Animal Unit” Featurette
• 7 Deleted Scenes
• Insert Reel
• Gag Reel
• “Moviefone Unscripted” Featurette
• Previews


Sony 36" WEGA KV-36FS12 Monitor; Sony DA333ES Processor/Receiver; Panasonic CV-50 DVD Player using component outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Sony SA-WM40 Subwoofer.


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Year Of The Dog (2007)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (August 14, 2007)

When 2007’s Year of the Dog would up on my door, I found it hard to decide if I should watch it. On one hand, I can’t call myself a fan of writer/director Mike White. While he’s worked on some good projects like School of Rock and Freaks and Geeks, he’s also made weak efforts like Chuck and Buck and The Good Girl. The latter clunkers stuck with me and made me wary of White’s material. On the other hand, Year heavily involves dogs, and I’m a sucker for anything with pooches in it.

The canines won, so here I am. Year introduces us to Peggy Spade (Molly Shannon), a middle-aged secretary who lives alone with her beloved pup Pencil. Her quiet world goes astray when Pencil runs away and eats something toxic. The poor little fella dies of this, and Peggy finds herself trapped in a morass of sadness.

Friends try to help, but they don’t quite get Peggy’s attachment to Pencil so they make things worse. However, the experience does start to broaden Peggy’s social world. She met neighbor Al (John C. Reilly) when she found Pencil on his property, and he offers to cheer her up when he learns about the pup’s fate. However, this doesn’t go well for a variety of reasons.

Things look up a bit when she hears from Newt Erdrich (Peter Sarsgaard) from the local SPCA. He saw her when she brought in Pencil, and he tries to get her to foster a needy dog. The movie follows Peggy’s attempts to get over Pencil and move on with her life in a variety of ways.

I can say this: my own adored pooch Oat loved Year. That’s because dogs delight me so much that whenever I saw one onscreen, I started to pet and praise Oat even more than normal. She got all sorts of great attention throughout the flick.

So that’s a big paws-up from Oat – how did I feel about it? I definitely identified with Peggy, especially when Pencil got sick. A few years back, Oat collapsed out of the blue. She survived this – she can’t walk anymore, but she’s still with us at 15 – but the experience was extremely traumatic. Because of my experiences with Oat, Year packed a much more powerful emotional punch than expected – or maybe even intended.

Even without that intense personal connection to the story, I think Year works pretty well. Much of the film’s success comes from the manner it subverts expectations. No, this isn’t a flick that goes out of its way to mess with the viewer’s head, but it manages to create a world in which we don’t get what we normally find from this sort of flick.

On first glance, one can easily anticipate that Year will be little more than a romantic comedy in the Truth About Cats and Dogs vein. As I recall, promos sure made it look that way, and through the film’s first third or so, that’s the path we think it’ll take. However, it slowly starts to turn into something different, as it becomes more meaningful and believable.

One pleasant surprise comes from the development of its characters. In that first third, virtually all of the roles other than Peggy look like they’ll be one-dimensional comic relief. We think that we’ll see Peggy’s path to romance as she deals with her superficial, marriage-obsessed friend (Regina King), her overprotective young mother sister-in-law (Laura Dern), and all the others. Each one comes with one characteristic and seems intended to stay that way.

Shock of shocks, that changes as the movie progresses. Slowly, all the supporting roles become more human and three-dimensional. I appreciate that these parts don’t stay stuck in their own little boxes, as this makes the movie more natural and enjoyable.

Of course, the flick remains Peggy’s journey, and it handles her side of things well. At times her portrayal verges on the edge of wacky stereotype, but White and Shannon manage to keep her within the bounds of reality – usually. And as we take this trip, we see how Peggy ends up in her own place, normal movie expectations be damned. I like that, since it means Year follows its own path but it doesn’t come to a forced or unbelievable conclusion.

Or maybe I just like anything that so eagerly embraces animal welfare. Heck, a movie with a crippled little dog already pushes its way into my heart, so it doesn’t take much beyond that to work for me. Year of the Dog avoids some potential traps to become charming and effective.

The DVD Grades: Picture C/ Audio C+/ Bonus B-

Year of the Dog appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Though never bad, the transfer consistently looked drab.

Sharpness was one issue. Much of the movie looked okay, but wide shots tended toward softness, and not a lot of great delineation appeared. The general impression the transfer left was of a moderately ill-defined image. No issues with jagged edges or shimmering occurred, and edge enhancement seemed absent. I noticed no source defects, but the movie looked grainier than expected.

Colors looked lackluster. Granted, the film never attempted bright, lively hues, but I still thought these seemed too bland anyway. They tended to appear somewhat flat and runny. Blacks were acceptably deep, but shadows tended to appear somewhat muddy and heavy. Too much of the movie seemed messy and murky to me. While I thought the movie remained watchable, this was a pretty ordinary image.

As for the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of Year of the Dog, it seemed pretty low-key. Not much happened to bring the soundfield to life. Music offered reasonably good stereo imaging. Effects played a minor role. They added some specifics at times, but the track usually stayed subdued and focused on general environmental information. The surrounds broadened the spectrum in a moderate way at most.

Audio quality was fine. Speech seemed natural and concise, and I noticed no problems with the dialogue. Effects were clear and accurate, even if they did stay in the background. Music seemed fine as well. This was a serviceable soundtrack.

In terms of extras, we start with an audio commentary from writer/director Mike White and actor Molly Shannon. Both sit together for this running, screen-specific track. They discuss cast, characters and performances, working with various animals, White’s experiences as a first-time director, inspirations, why Shannon took the project, music, and a few other production tidbits.

Overall, the pair offer a sporadically useful chat. Actually, it works better than I anticipated, mainly because White can be a rather introverted, subdued subject. However, he proves reasonably chatty here; White definitely carries most of the load, as Shannon doesn’t offer a ton of into. The track moves along at a decent clip and gives us a smattering of nice insights, though it peters out toward the end. Anyway, this never threatens to be one of the better commentaries, but it’s worth a listen.

We get a series of featurettes here as well. A Special Breed of Comedy: The Making of Year of the Dog lasts 16 minutes, 17 seconds and includes movie shots, behind the scenes elements, and interviews. We hear from Shannon, White, producers Dede Gardner and Ben Leclair, and actors Regina King, Peter Sarsgaard, John C. Reilly, and Laura Dern. The show looks at the movie’s inspiration, its story and its goals, cast and characters, White’s influence and the tone of the production, sets and design, and general thoughts.

“Breed” doesn’t come across as a promotional piece, but it doesn’t do much to inform us about the film. Though a smattering of decent details emerge along the way, most of the show adopts a pretty fluffy tone that tries to make us like the movie. It’s not a terrible piece, but it’s disposable.

For the four-minute and 10-second Being Molly Shannon, we find notes from Shannon and White as they discuss Shannon’s career and her work on Year. Despite a few interesting notes, this mostly feels like the “Molly’s Great!” show. It doesn’t offer a lot of substance.

Mike White Unleashed fills four minutes, 17 seconds and feature comments from White, Shannon, Sarsgaard, Reilly, Dern, King, and Leclair. The piece looks at White’s directorial debut and his work preferences. As with “Being”, this one often gives us your basic happy talk. However, White manages to convey some insights into his work. It remains spotty, but it’s got enough to it to merit a screening.

Next we see the three-minute and 44-second Special Animal Unit. It provides remarks from Shannon, White, and head animal trainer Ursula Brauner. We learn a little about the dogs used in the film and their work. Despite the clip’s brevity, it proves pretty informative. Or maybe I just like it because we get to spend more time with the pups and I’m a sucker for that.

Seven Deleted Scenes last a total of 11 minutes, 51 seconds. These include “Peggy Misses Pencil” (0:43), “Cat Hoarder” (1:04), “Peggy Isn’t Ready to Take Valentine” (1:31), “’It’s Time to Put Your Dog to Bed’” (2:12), “Newt and Peggy Get to Know Each Other (Extended Version)” (2:52), “Newt and Peggy Make Up” (2:07), and “Peggy and Lissie Commune with the Animals” (1:21). Should any of these clips have stayed in the final flick? Nope, not in my opinion. Some come across as little more than animal rights propaganda; though that’s a cause I support, the scenes don’t fit in the movie. Others just seem redundant or even negative, such as the one that makes Robin come across like more of a jerk. I’m happy we get to see these, but I think they all deserved to be cut.

We can view these with or without commentary from White. He remains low-key as he tells us a little about the scenes and why he cut them. White doesn’t give us a ton of information, but at least he provides decent basics.

An Insert Reel goes for one minute, 50 seconds. Basically this offers a look at the details of the movie’s props. It’s fun to take a closer look at these little bits of life strewn through the flick. We also locate a three-minute and five-second Gag Reel. It’s less interesting, as it just provides the standard goofs and silliness from the set.

A promotional featurette called Moviefone Unscripted lasts six minutes, 56 seconds and features White and Shannon. They ask each other questions and take some from viewers as well. They don’t give us a lot of depth, but we get enough quirky questions to make the show interesting.

A promo for Next opens the DVD. It also shows up in the Previews domain along with a clip for Blades of Glory.

When I went into Year of the Dog, I expected a annoyingly cute and quirky romantic comedy. To my pleasant surprise, I found a movie that provides an emotional, charming look at how people find what makes them happy. The DVD offers mediocre picture and audio as well as some decent supplements. Though the DVD doesn’t impress, I like the movie enough to recommend it.

Viewer Film Ratings: 4.5 Stars Number of Votes: 4
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