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Must Love Dogs Review

By Shawn McKenzie 07/29/2005

Hello, my name is Shawn.  I am 30 years old, 6 feet tall, 220 pounds, with short brown hair and hazel eyes.  I live alone in Aurora, CO.  I don’t smoke, drink, or do any illegal drugs.  I’ve never been married, and I don’t have any kids (though I want them someday.)  My interests include movies, TV, and music.  I am a critic for an entertainment website, so I get to enjoy those three things all the time.  My other interests include karaoke, trivia, and long conversations.  I’m a really nice guy, so if you would be interested in meeting me, write me back at blah, blah, blah…

Why did I start out my review with a personal ad (which is a real ad that I have posted at various dating websites before…or at least a variation of it)?  It’s because that is the premise of the romantic comedy Must Love Dogs, and I was able to identify with the movie for the most part.

Sarah Nolan (Diane Lane) is an over 40-year-old woman who is trying to date again following her divorce from her fireman ex named Kevin eight months ago.  She is a pre-school teacher for a place called Bay Berry who gets dating advice from everyone, including her sisters Carol (Elizabeth Perkins) and Christine (Ali Hillis), their widowed father Bill (Christopher Plummer), Aunt Eileen (Marylouise Burke), and more, during a dating intervention at the beginning of the movie.  She is starting to doubt that anyone can find love, since the only successful couple she knows is that of her gay coworker Leo (Brad William Henke) and his boyfriend Eric (Victor Webster.)  She is even bummed that she has to order one chicken from the deli guy (Kirk Trutner) at her grocery store.  She does find a single dad named Bob Connor (Dermot Mulroney) attractive, but she can’t date him, because he is the father of Austin (Bobby Coleman), one of the preschool kids.  Besides…Sarah has competition from one of her assistants named June (Julie Gonzalo), a perky younger blonde woman.  Sarah tries answering an online ad to a dating service in the meantime, resulting in a disturbing meeting with a gentleman caller who turns out to be her dad (he had been married for 45 years, and now that he is a widow, he is playing the field.)  Carol though has decided to fast track Sarah’s search for a man by submitting her sister’s profile to another online dating service called perfectmatch.com…without Sarah’s knowledge.  When Sarah does find out about the ad, she wonders why Carol had submitted a photo from her college graduation yearbook, and why she had the ad say, “must love dogs,” even though she doesn’t own a dog.  She gets 18 responses however, and she goes out on some dates with a few of them.  The first guy named Walter (Tony Bill) thought that she was too old.  The second guy named Lennie (Josh Stamberg) had such low self-esteem that he would cry at the drop of a hat.  I forgot why she had a problem with her third date named Marshal (Patrick St. Esprit), but he was a loser as well.  Just when she is ready to give up, she meets Jake Anderson (John Cusack), a divorced boat builder who over-analyzes everything and is obsessed with the 1965 movie Doctor Zhivago.  His best friend and lawyer Charlie (Ben Shenkman) has been also trying to get Jake to date again following his divorce from his wife Lisa, if for no other reason than to have sex.  He thinks that Jake should go out with a young blonde ditzy woman named Sherry (Jordana Spiro), but Jake is more interested in the “must love dogs” woman from the ad.  Jake meets Sarah in a dog park sporting a “rental” dog, while Sarah has brought with her Teresa, a huge black Newfoundland owned by her brother Michael (Glenn Howerton), who is having marital problems with his wife Jennifer (Amy Kidd) at the moment.  There is a little bit of a spark, but he messes things up and ends up sticking his foot in his mouth one too many times.  His honesty intrigues her though, and she goes out with him on a second date.  That date goes much better, resulting in a mad dash for condoms (unfortunately, they don’t succeed in getting them.)  Sarah is still attracted to Bob though (she has decided to ignore the dating dads rule), and she even invites him to spend Thanksgiving with her, her dad, and one of her dad’s girlfriends named Dolly (Stockard Channing.)  Speaking of Dolly…Sarah and this woman form a bond, since Dolly knows that Bill is a player, and she has submitted her own profile to several websites.  One guy that Dolly had been corresponding with is a 17-year-old kid named Jeremy (Will Rothhaar), who shows up at her front door one day (she has to lie to him and say that she is 41, when in reality she is 61.)  As for Sarah and Jake and Bob, they have a love triangle, and she must decide which guy she could really see taking a chance on.

This is only writer/director Gary David Goldberg’s second movie (the first one was the 1989 Jack Lemmon/Ted Danson movie Dad), but he has a long history in television.  He created three very funny shows:  NBC’s “Family Ties” (1982-1989), NBC’s “Day by Day” (1988-1989), and ABC’s “Spin City” (1996-2002.)  He has also written for many others, like “The Bob Newhart Show,” “M*A*S*H,” “Alice,” “Lou Grant,” and more.  He is great at writing dialogue that is hilarious, and he takes Claire Cook’s original 2002 novel to amusing heights.

Lane and Cusack have been in many “chick flicks.”  While her first movie came out in 1979, she didn’t become an A-list star until her Oscar-nominated role in 2002’s Unfaithful.  She did have a minor hit with 2003’s Under the Tuscan Sun (a movie that I didn’t like) before this movie.  Cusack has a better track record with romantic comedies, with two of them landing on my 2002 “Top 10 Guy Chick Flicks of All Time” list.  Aside from the two mentioned, 1985’s Better Off Dead and 2000’s High Fidelity, he has been in several other chick flick classics that even guys like, such as 1988’s Eight Men Out, 1989’s Say Anything, and 2001’s Serendipity.  While I didn’t exactly see tons of heat between the two actors, I thought that they played their parts very well.

Many of the supporting characters were memorable too.  Plummer as the playboy dad really felt like he was a supportive dad.  Mulroney, who has had his share of chick flicks, including this year’s The Wedding Date, was a charming scoundrel.  Sarah’s two sisters and Jake’s friend Charlie didn’t do much for me, but Channing was funny as the desperate woman that Sarah really doesn’t want to turn into eventually.

I could identify with this movie because I am a single guy still looking for love via online ads.  I’m not divorced or in my 40s, but I have gone the Internet route rather than try to find people in person.  I think that the reason why there are so many people trying out the net is that they think that it is the only way to advertise their personality before showing off their looks.  People are very superficial in general.  Good-looking people can find love almost anywhere.  For people like me who are average looking, you have to sell yourself.  That’s what rings so true about the movie, yet so untrue though.  Sure…Sarah is in her 40s and recently divorced…but she is smoking hot!  I thought that the Dolly character was more believable.  Channing isn’t an unattractive woman, but I’ve never considered her hot…even in the days of Grease.  I believe that both men and women actually do the things that Dolly does in the movie, such as misrepresent her age and interests, but I don’t agree with it.  I’ve always been honest in ads…which is probably why I’m still single.

I recommend that all single people should see Must Love Dogs, especially if you have tried online dating.  As the recent ABC News miniseries “Hooking Up” has shown us, there are plenty of single people going that route, and they too might identify with this movie.  Even if you already have a significant other, you would enjoy the movie, because you can laugh at the jokes and thank God that you are no longer single.


Get the soundtrack featuring songs by Linda Ronstadt, Sheryl Crow, Ryan Adams and the Cardinals, Natalie Cole, and more:

Get the novel by Claire Cook that the movie is based on:

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