Must Love Dogs

Bomb Rating: 

From the very title, I knew "Must Love Dogs" was going to test my patience in the worst way. Having had some Internet dating experience, I know that when a woman demands that you "must love dogs," she is essentially saying this: "I am Satan." The phrase means that you'll be dating her dog in addition to her, as though it weren't hard enough to break through the veneer of a recent divorcee whose child-bearing potential is all but shot. That kind of psychological exploration is like digging through concrete with a wet spaghetti shovel. What are hip, 30-something guys to do? Hug our Xboxes, of course.

The cinematic déjà vu in this film is disturbing. Diane Lane is playing the same character she played in "Under the Tuscan Sun." The only difference is that Sarah (Lane), searches for love on a dating Web site after her sister (Elizabeth Perkins) posts a profile for her. It's "You've Got Mail" with HTML. Sarah falls for Jake (John Cusack), who has the same occupation as Kevin Costner's character in the uber-schmaltzy "Message in a Bottle." Apparently, women go for boat builders, although admittedly John Travolta built boats and his wife left him in "Domestic Disturbance." which I guess goes to show that boat building can have a downside.

What's with the sensitive man with the exotic job anyway? Aside from being completely ridiculous, it creates the atmosphere for what I refer to as "Hollywood Economics 101." Specifically, Jake builds wooden sculls, which are of no use to anyone and explains why he hasn't sold one in ages, thus begging the question: How does this guy eat? I mean, it seems to me that this film would work better if it were titled "Must Love Dog Food" given Jake's dire financial situation. Sarah's other potential love interest is Bob (Dermot Mulroney), the dad of one of her kindergarten students. Bob lives in a trailer park, but drives a thirty thousand dollar Volvo.

"Must Love Dogs" clings to clichés like a drowning man to a floating buoy. There's the music, every lyric of which describes Sarah's immediate state of mind. There's the amazingly eclectic and humorous extended family providing plenty of comic relief during potential slow moments. There's the gay friend (everyone has one!), also providing comic relief. There's the litany of bad dates each presented in several, brief "geek of the night" montages. And finally, there's the predictable ending, where once again a woman's self-esteem is qualified through her relationship to some seemingly hip guy she hardly knows.

If you like this movie, you must love dogs.

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