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Case Number 04110: Small Claims Court

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Dog Park

New Line // 1998 // 91 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Bill Treadway (Retired) // March 19th, 2004

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All Rise...

The Charge

Dog Poop would be a more apt title.

The Case

Terminal sap Andy (Luke Wilson, Bottle Rocket) has just broken up with girlfriend (Kathleen Robertson, I Am Sam). To add insult to injury, she has taken his beloved dog with her ("She didn't even like the dog until we broke up," he explains at a local bar). It is at said bar that he runs into Lorna (Natasha Henstridge, Species), a bitter young woman. She complains loudly when Andy musters up enough courage to talk to her. That is until he mentions his troubles with his ex and the dog. Somehow, these two loners bond over dogs.

Dog Park is a film that is not only light on plot, but on laughs as well. There is not a single funny moment in this vast 91-minute wasteland. This is a painful, alleged comedy about unpleasant people with whom we cannot relate to. It's a shame that it fails, since writer/director Bruce McCullough is a funny man. As a member of the comedy group The Kids in the Hall, he is responsible for some of the many times I have split my sides. I think the main problem with his film is that he is unsure of what he wants to do. He wants to touch our hearts with a gentle romance, but he also wants to go for belly busting laughs. The formula can work. The Goodbye Girl is one that did. Sleeper is another. But Neil Simon and Woody Allen realized one thing McCullough doesn't: you can't wallow in misery for too long. There has to be some redeeming value to the characters in order for us to accept them as a couple.

Here lies our second problem: the main characters. Luke Wilson's character is too much of a sap for us to garner much sympathy. He's too safe and too quiet. Milquetoasts have often been prime targets for screen comedy, but McCullough makes Andy too emotionally weak. But he's lovable compared to the irritating Lorna. As played by Natasha Henstridge, she is simply a bitch on wheels, too abrasive and dour for us to even like. Watch her opening moment and tell me you don't want her to disappear. Wilson and Henstridge have no chemistry together either, which is deadly for a romantic comedy. Watch Wilson's scenes with Kathleen Robertson and you'll see oodles of screen chemistry. Who knows how much better this film could have been had Robertson and Henstridge switched roles? Janeane Garafolo is wasted as Wilson's friend, who gives him advice. Usually she brightens any picture she appears in, but this is the first time I have seen a performance drenched in self-defeat.

New Line issues Dog Park in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. It's not a very good transfer; in fact, it's not much better than standard VHS. There is often heavy grain in the image, particularly in dark scenes. Colors are soft and subdued, drowning in muddy earth tones. Edge enhancement is often present, to the point that the actors resemble comic book drawings. And let's not get started on the blemishes such as specks and scratches. There's no doubt that Dog Park is an ugly film, but it shouldn't look this terrible.

Audio is your choice of either Dolby Digital 2.0 or 5.1 Surround. It really doesn't matter which one you pick as there is no major difference between the two tracks. They both sound decent, serviceable for the casual viewer but murder for the viewer with refined hearing ability.

Extras are limited to theatrical trailers for Dog Park, B*A*P*S, How to Deal, and Book of Love. All but How to Deal are presented in anamorphic widescreen.

If you have the vaguest notion of renting Dog Park, here's what I suggest you do. Use your money to buy a pooper scooper instead. Then go to the park and clean up the dog doo. It's not only more intellectually stimulating, but the smell is better too.

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Scales of Justice

Judgment: 20

Perp Profile

Studio: New Line
Video Formats:
• 1.85:1 Anamorphic
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (English)
• English
• Spanish
Running Time: 91 Minutes
Release Year: 1998
MPAA Rating: Rated R
• Bad
• Comedy
• Romance
• Romantic Comedies

Distinguishing Marks

• Theatrical Trailers


• IMDb

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