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Gary David Goldberg
Diane Lane, John Cusack, Elizabeth Perkins, Christopher Plummer, Dermot Mulroney, Stockard Channing, Ali Hillis, Brad William Henke, Julie Gonzalo
Writing Credits:
Claire Cook (novel), Gary David Goldberg

The hardest trick is making them stay.

Must Love Dogs tells the story of Sarah Nolan (Diane Lane), a newly divorced woman cautiously rediscovering romance with the enthusiastic but often misguided help of her well-meaning family. As she braves a series of hilarious disastrous mismatches and first dates, Sarah begins to trust her own instincts again and learns that. no matter what, it's never a good idea to give up on love.

Box Office:
$30 million.
Opening Weekend
$12.855 million on 2505 screens.
Domestic Gross
$43.894 million.

Rated PG-13

Widescreen 2.35:1/16x9
English Dolby Digital 5.1
French Dolby Digital 5.1

Runtime: 98 min.
Price: $28.98
Release Date: 12/20/2005

• Deleted Scenes with Optional Director’s Commentary
• Gag Reel
• Trailer


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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Must Love Dogs (2005)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (December 7, 2005)

If ever I could find a chick flick that appealed to me, 2005’s Must Love Dogs should have been the one. After all, I really do love dogs. I adore my pair and think canines are pretty much the most wonderful organisms on the planet.

In addition, Dogs looks at the world of online dating, another subject with which I’m intimately familiar. (A little too familiar for my liking, but that’s a rant for another day.) Pooches and dating woes? Sounds like a flick for me!

Alas, this was not the case. Oh my, was this not the case! Despite its promise, Dogs ended up as one of the most painful viewing experiences I’ve had in a while.

Dogs introduces us to recent divorcee Sarah (Diane Lane). Her husband left her for a much younger woman, and she’s none too excited about returning to the dating scene. Friends and family actively prod her to do so, though, and the pre-school teacher soon has two possible mates on the horizon.

The father of one of her students seems like the best bet. Bob (Dermot Mulroney) recently separated from his wife and he appears to be an excellent catch: handsome, smart, sensitive and charming. And then there’s Jake (John Cusack). Like Sarah, he’s stinging from a fresh divorce. Also like Sarah, he gets conned into interacting with the Internet personals. The pair meet for a dog park date – both with pooches who don’t belong to them – and Jake scares off Sarah with his intense personality.

She really impresses him, though, and he gets her to go out with him again. Slowly they find some chemistry, though various events conspire to keep them separated. Things develop with Bob as well, and the film follows Sarah’s various relationship issues.

Sadly, Dogs does so in the film cliché ways possible. Every hallmark of this sort of flick appears. Gay friend? Check. Cute, precocious kids? Check. Sassy friend/sister of the female lead? Check. Nutty old people? Check. Smutty friend of the male lead? Check. Score that alternates between frisky and mushy with no other flavors? Check.

Part of me wants to believe that they made Dogs as a spoof of chick flicks. It so fervently buys into all the stock elements that it becomes tough to see it as anything other than a parody. Sadly, I’m pretty sure this wasn’t meant as a joke. Everyone seems to take this tripe seriously.

When I looked over my notes for the film, I saw words like “painful”, “agonizing” and “excruciating”. With every cliché, the movie became more and more difficult to watch. I’m not sure what the worst part was. On one hand, the faux clever dialogue was really atrocious. The flick used all sorts of cutesy lines that someone must’ve thought were witty but instead were insipid. Plenty of allegedly wacky scenarios occur as well, such as when Sarah’s first blind date ends up with her dad (Christopher Plummer). This form of forced nuttiness exists only in the movies.

Probably the saddest aspect of Dogs comes from its waste of talent. With Cusack, Lane, Plummer, Elizabeth Perkins, and many other fine performers in tow, it’s criminal to see them trashed this way. Surely all can find more meaningful work than this nonsense?

Maybe not. As for me, if I needed a paycheck bad enough to make me consider a project like Must Love Dogs, I’d get a job flipping burgers instead. At least that’s only minor public humiliation and I wouldn’t have it endure on DVD for years to come. Dogs is the lowest form of cinematic dreck.

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

Must Love Dogs appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. No one expects major problems from a brand-new film, and Dogs came without serious concerns.

My only complaint – and the reason this often-gorgeous transfer fell below “A” level – stemmed from some edge enhancement and occasional softness. The vast majority of the movie looked well-defined and tight, but every once in a while a shot appeared surprisingly fuzzy. Some haloes cropped up as well. Again, those were infrequent, but they created a few distractions. No issues with jagged edges or shimmering occurred, though, and I noticed no source flaws.

While it stunk as a movie, at least Dogs looked lovely. The film featured a very warm, lively palette. The colors always seemed brilliant and dynamic; they really lit up the screen with their vibrant tones. Blacks were deep and firm, while shadows looked tight and clear. Only the sharpness issues made me find this to be anything other than an outstanding presentation.

If you want to play a perfect example of a stock romantic comedy soundtrack, the Dolby Digital 5.1 mix of Must Love Dogs would be a good place to start. Heavy on music and light on effects, the audio focused strongly on the front channels. The only scene that made me notice the surrounds came in a strip joint; the music opened up to the back speakers pretty well. Otherwise the audio concentrated on the front.

Even there the mix had little to do. Music boasted good delineation, and I guess atmospheric elements were fine. They were completely unobtrusive, though, which is where that “I guess” came from; even though the movie just ended about 20 minutes ago, I find it very hard to remember much about the soundfield. It neither helped nor hindered the film.

At least audio quality was strong. Speech always sounded natural and concise, with no edginess or concerns. Music offered good tones. The score and songs were lively and dynamic, and they boasted some pretty solid low-end at times. As for those effects, they appeared clean and acceptably accurate, if wholly unmemorable. This one got a “B-“ because it sounded good. The soundfield was lackluster, but I couldn’t complain about the mix’s fidelity.

On the other hand, I could complain about the weak roster of supplements. The main attraction comes from four deleted scenes. These run a total of eight minutes and 18 seconds. We see: a dating testimonial not used in the film; Sarah commiserates with her dad about the dating scene; Sarah and her sister Carol fill out her online profile; and an extended version of her dad’s Thanksgiving speech. None are entertaining, amusing or memorable, but why would they be when the entire movie itself bites?

We can watch the deleted scenes with or without commentary from director Gary David Goldberg. He tells us background about the shots and why he cut them. Goldberg offers some illuminating remarks. He’s so interesting that I almost wish he’d done a commentary for the full movie.

In addition to the flick’s trailer, we get a gag reel. Called “Pass the Beef”, this 55-second piece actually consists solely of two outtakes from the scene in which Carol puts her foot in her mouth when Sarah brings home Jake. It’s not very useful.

Maybe my online profile should read “Must Hate Must Love Dogs”. While I admit I didn’t have terribly high expectations for Must Love Dogs, I didn’t anticipate anything quite this atrocious. Charmless, witless and unbearably formulaic, this one feels like a computer created it out of every chick flick cliché. The DVD provides good picture with acceptable sound but skimps on extras. Not that a Lord of the Rings-style special edition would endear this DVD to me. Stay far away from this stinker.

Viewer Film Ratings: 3.9285 Stars Number of Votes: 14
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