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Must Love Dogs


‘…Must Love Dogs is just a vanilla time-passer, a stop-gap time-waster when it so dearly wants to be The One…’

Yikes! Gary David Goldberg’s glossy rom-com from Claire Cook’s 2002 novel feels like a relic from a bygone age in 2023; were people in 2005 still reeling with getting their heads around online interaction? Yes, it’s that new fangled internet dating that’s the driving force in this amiable yet forgettable narrative, and these days, where the internet has taken over from being alive for most of us, it’s hard to remember that ordinary people saw the net as an accessory to living, rather than a replacement for life.

Diane Lane plays pre-school teacher Sarah Nolan, recently divorced; her interfering friends and family sign up for, a real dating site to this day and one that Sarah can access at home on her whizzo iBook G4. Sarah feels stirrings for hunky Bob Connor (Dermot Mulroney or possible Dylan McDermott), a parent whose kid she teaches, but is he the right guy? Or could The One be humble star Jake Anderson (John Cusack), an eccentric soul who hand-crafts boat hulls for a living and cheerfully passes off someone else’s dog as his on their first date. Sarah is seeking a man who ‘must love dogs’ as per the movie title, but there’s more to relationships than mutual canine appreciation…

Must Love Dogs is somehow less interested in dogs than it is in the fabulouso new communication and friendship tool that is the net; ‘You can pay your bills naked!’ enthuses one character, which is probably true if not desirable. But aside from putting Sarah and Jake in contact, Must Love Dogs doesn’t look at how internet dating might bring people together or not; it’s just another meet cute. Mistakenly using your graduation photo for your dating profile, or using the acronym DWF are as dank as these memes get in 2005, but Sarah’s pre-school workplace, complete with ‘emergency pants’ is well enough drawn, as is Jake’s bromance relationship with his friend Charlie (Ben Shenkman) ‘I guess we’re just two normal guys watching Dr Zhivago in the afternoon’ Jake reflects, but it’s also unexpectedly esoteric to describe a playful dog as being able to ‘stop his heart like a Sufi mystic’. Crass people want to buy Jake’s hulls to use as expensive decoration, but he won’t sell out his craft by selling them; true art, for Jake, is not made or sold for commercial purposes, so double negatives aside, you can’t say we’re not given every indicator who might turn out to be the right guy for Sarah…

Must Love Dogs is all about character; too much when the entire narrative stops to allow Christopher Plummer to recite Yates’ Brown Penny poem, included below. Despite some great talents in front of the camera, Must Love Dogs is just a vanilla time-passer, a stop-gap time-waster when it so dearly wants to be The One. Cusack and Lane both do wonders with their parts, but ultimately Must Love Dogs is far too eager to please for its own good

I whispered, ‘I am too young,’
And then, ‘I am old enough’;
Wherefore I threw a penny
To find out if I might love.
‘Go and love, go and love, young man,
If the lady be young and fair.’
Ah, penny, brown penny, brown penny,
I am looped in the loops of her hair.
O love is the crooked thing,
There is nobody wise enough
To find out all that is in it,
For he would be thinking of love
Till the stars had run away
And the shadows eaten the moon.
Ah, penny, brown penny, brown penny,
One cannot begin it too soon.


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  1. I’ve seen this one (of course) but it’s hazy in my memory. I too remember it as vanilla – I didn’t hate it, didn’t really like it either.

    My take away at the time was that it was a waste of Cusack and especially Lane’s talents…..

    It might be jarring now to watch just to see how much our online lives have taken over our real ones…

    • It’s a museum piece now, but your core argument is correct; Lane and Cusack deserve better…

  2. I really feel that Diane Lane is limiting the playing field a LOT by insisting that someone other than her love dogs too. I mean, I would have married her but that dog claws, well, no man can hold up his head with pride if he’s playing second fiddle to a bundle of shedding fur.

  3. I’m sure it’s a good movie with such a nice looking dog in the lead, but still not seeing it.

    Do you not pay bills naked? I read film reviews in the buff.

    than mutual canine appreciation, than it is in the fabulouso . . . were you typing in the rain again?

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