Film isn’t mutt it should be |

Film isn’t mutt it should be

It’s one thing for actors to transcend a weak script, but quite another to put forth the effort to make a bad movie into a good one.

“Must Love Dogs” falls short of that lofty second achievement, but it’s not for want of trying. According to the Internet Movie Database, John Cusack wrote 35 pages of additional dialogue for his character, Jake, before sending it back to director Gary David Goldberg. Similarly inspired performances from the likes of Elizabeth Perkins and Diane Lane can elevate “Must Like Dogs” only so much, resulting in a movie that’s better than it has any right to be ” but still not great.

At their worst, they’re three pretty good actors, so it’s not the quality of their performances that stand out in “Must Like Dogs.” Real-life best friends Lane and Perkins naturally fit in their roles as sisters. And while Jake seems like a grown-up version of Lloyd Dobler from “Say Anything,” he and Lane create convincing chemistry as the leads in the romantic comedy ” despite what Kimberly says.

What makes the good acting stand out in “Must Like Dogs” is the movie’s worst problem. The effort and talent evident in those performances only make you realize how much of “Must Like Dogs” is boilerplate, and how little of it actually makes sense once you stop and think about it.

The big stuff, if by rote, is at least believable: Sarah (Lane), in post-breakup mode, reluctantly meets guys from the Internet, where she meets Jake (whose friend sets him up) at a dog park.

There are also quite a few holes in that boilerplate ” enough that I can make a couple of points without giving away much of what happens. For one thing, it’s a romantic comedy with “Dogs” in the title (and “The hardest trick is making them stay” for a tagline) wherein neither lead actually owns a dog. Also, sculling (you know, you called it “rowing crew” in college) is fairly important to the plot with Jake building boats for a living, and there are plenty of L.L. Bean-

looking rivers for Jake to launch his watercraft, though the movie’s set in California.

That’s the backdrop for “Must Like Dogs.” Weak, but it makes the stars shine brighter. It’s almost an accidental upgrade for the movie’s pedigree ” which makes “Must Like Dogs” a little better than the mutt of romantic comedies.

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