Preview by: Jack Foley
IT'S been a while since we've heard anything from John Cusack,
but the talented and versatile actor will be looking to end the
year on a high with the romantic comedy, Must Love Dogs, and the
crime thriller, Ice Harvest (which reunites him with Billy Bob
First up, though, and due to hit UK cinema screens in September
is Must Love Dogs, a contemporary take on the dating game.
Based on the book by Claire Cook, and written and directed by
two-time Emmy Award winner Gary David Goldberg, the film co-stars
Diane Lane as 30-something pre-school teacher, Sarah Nolan, who
has been divorced for eight months.
Her sisters, Carol (Elizabeth Perkins) and Christine (Ali Hillis),
attempt to ease her out of depression by lining up potential suitors,
hoping that the romantic exploits of their widowed father, Bill
(Christopher Plummer), will serve as an inspiration.
But they are eventually forced to pretend to be Sarah and post
her profile on perfectmatch.com, with the enticing message, 'Voluptuous,
sensuous, alluring and fun. DWF seeks special man to share starlit
nights. Must love dogs.' And wait for the responses to pour in.
Sarah subsequently endures a series of disastrous mismatches
and first dates culminating in a meeting with Jake Anderson (Cusack),
an idealist who measures romance by a Dr. Zhivago standard.
She also becomes distracted by a new man at work, in the form
of Dermot Mulroney's Bob Connor, a newly separated dad of one
of her young students.
So which man will Sarah choose and will true love prevail?
Critics in America were less than impressed with the romantic
shenanigans of Must Love Dogs, while the film only opened at No.4
at the US box office.
Despite the pedigree of its cast, many found it too sweet and
lacking in any sparkle for a romantic comedy.
The New York Daily News, for instance, asked:
"Did Lane and John Cusack really have to put themselves through
this? Here are two first-rate actors in the embarrassing situation
of playing blithering misfits in a lame comedy of errors."
While the Washington Post felt that it 'stands
as yet another example of how easy it is for filmmakers to fail
at romantic comedy'.
And the Los Angeles Times lamented that 'it
takes Lane, John Cusack, Dermot Mulroney, Elizabeth Perkins, Stockard
Channing and Christopher Plummer and forces them to reenact the
entire unabridged Encyclopedia of Treasured Romantic Comedy Clichés
and Chestnuts, Revised Second Edition'.
Slightly more positive, however, was Variety,
which felt that 'even when it doesn't entirely succeed, Goldberg's
literate screenplay has an old-fashioned, almost preternaturally
And the Atlanta Journal Constitution, which
referred to it as 'a somewhat generic romantic comedy blessed
with a generous heart, bright dialogue and irresistible stars.
Plus, it's not averse to taking risks'.
But the Chicago Sun-Times wrote: "Must
Love Dogs is like a puppy with big brown eyes and a wagging tail
who weeps with eagerness to lick your hand, but you take a look
around the pound and decide to adopt the sad-eyed beagle who looks
as if she has seen a thing or two."
And CNN dryly observed that 'calling it a dog
is an insult to canines'.
The Boston Globe, meanwhile, concludes this
overview by stating: "While Lane is her typical winning self,
the film is mawkish."