Year of the Dog (PG-13)

Drama 97 April 20th, 2007
By Rob Nelson
This latest geek's-revenge fantasy from screenwriter Mike White (Chuck & Buck, The School of Rock) follows Peggy (Molly Shannon), a hypersensitive animal lover who can't easily manage the tragic loss of Pencil, her beagle. Cruelty? Comedy? Of course. White's tonal ambiguity, vacillating subtly between sarcastic and earnest, gives his dangerously slight film a tiny edge that lasts almost all the way through. The twinkling of a piano on the soundtrack matches Peggy's grief as she weeps into the red, white, and blue sweater vest that dear departed Pencil doesn't need in doggy heaven. Golly, what can our good girl possibly find to fill the hole in her heart? Dogs, unlike people, don't disappoint. Or do they? Everyone here, human and animal, has a primal preoccupation with licking wounds, marking territory, playing fetch, or baring teeth. As a vision of middle-class suburban America, Year of the Dog is maybe limited, but not by much. White's realist brand of satire hardly required him to design a kitsch parade from scratch, only to set up his camera at PuppyWorld.
Mike White Molly Shannon, Laura Dern, Regina King, Thomas McCarthy, Josh Pais, John C. Reilly, Peter Sarsgaard, Amy Schlagel, Zoe Schlagel, Dale Godboldo Mike White Jack Black Paramount Vantage