Give Your Puppy a Hug Right Now: A 'Dog Days' film review
by Will Lindus
Following a group of interconnected stories about dogs and the humans whose lives they touch, Dog Days is a surprisingly charming family film which proudly displays the enormity of the human-animal bond without irony, guile, or malice.
Elizabeth (Nina Dobrev) and Jimmy (Tone Bell) are a pair of morning talk show co-hosts who overcome their animosity for each other through their mutual love of their dogs. Dax (Adam Pally) is a free-spirited musician incapable of showing responsibility who is forced to step up to the plate and watch his sister’s dog after the birth of her twins. Tara (Vanessa Hudgens) and Garrett (Jon Bass) team up to help launch a fundraiser for an animal rescue shelter. Walter (Ron Cephas Jones) is distraught over the death of his wife, and is forced to come out of his funk and team up with local pizza delivery boy Tyler (Finn Wolfhard) when Walter’s dog runs away. And Grace (Eva Longoria) and Kurt (Rob Corddry) discover that the only way to get their newly adopted daughter to open up is through the love she shares for a runaway dog they find. Through each of their stories, the humans discover something about themselves that they could only learn through their love of their four legged friends.
Dog Days is fairly straight as far as films go, in that its sunny, optimistic view of the world doesn’t quite mimic the severity of the world we live in, and at times, it almost feels naive in the way that it addresses human relationships and animal health issues. It doesn’t innovate as a film or as a narrative, as it is directed, shot, and performed fairly conventionally. That said, Dog Days never tries to present itself as anything more than a sweet, sentimental story about humans and animals, and therein lies its strength.
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the concept of intentionality when it comes to film critique and analysis. Specifically, I’ve been thinking about how we often unfairly apply standards that are perfectly appropriate for one style of film to another film that has a different focus or intention. Certainly, technique, execution, density of narrative weight, and originality are all important factors when determining a film’s place in the big picture view of cinema, but these are not the only elements to be considered when weighing a film’s worth to its target audience. Some films are about spectacle, or about action choreography, or about cheap laughs, and all of these approaches can be correct if that intentionality is paired with execution that connects the premise with the audience.
And some films simply want to remind you why dogs are awesome, and how positively they impact our lives.
I say all of this because after seeing Dog Days and in thinking through my analysis, I kept finding myself trying to argue against myself when formulating my thoughts. On the surface, it lacks little of the nuance or the polish that would normally be needed in a positive review, but I had fun with it, and I went home afterwards and gave my dogs a ridiculously big hug and some extra treats. In terms of intentionality, I’d say Dog Days nailed it.
Bottom Line: As far as family comedies go, Dog Days is straight forward, predictable, and saccharine sweet. It packs no bark and no bite. What it does provide, though, is warmth and joy that the entire family can enjoy.
3 out of 5 Bear Paws