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Worth A Look: 43.48%
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Total Crap: 8.7%

2 reviews, 11 user ratings

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Dog Problem, The
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by Erik Childress

"Scott Caan Is 2-For-2 As Writer/Director. And He's Getting Better."
4 stars

SCREENED AT THE 2006 TORONTO INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL: What is it about dogs that make them man’s best friend? Is it the kinship we find in the species we are often associated with? The dual nature of the creature being the one most likely to eat, poop and sleep in their domain while contributing little else yet remain the most loyal. Or maybe they’re just so damn cute to resist no matter how many brown stains they drop on our carpets. Scott Caan has played more than a few dogs on his acting resume and he plays another one here; but one taking a backseat to the immediate charms of his second writing and directing effort that provides further evolution to his career.

Solo (Giovanni Ribisi) is precisely the kind of person that Los Angeles seems to produce with some regularity. He’s written a book, considered a failure by everyone including himself and is heavily in debt thanks to spending all his money on psychiatry. He’s so desperate for a connection to anything or anyone that he even buys his shrink (Don Cheadle) gifts which professionally he cannot accept. On what may be his final session, it is suggested that he get a pet to help cure his emotional closure. Solo is hapless at even this, bringing along his photog best friend, Casper (Scott Caan) along to make the choice only to watch him chase down a hot girl on the escalator.

Solo winds up picking a scruffy little mutt and then has no idea what to do with him. Casper suggests selling him to a rich, dog lover (Mena Suvari) as the means to rid himself of both the responsibility and to get some cash to pay Benny (Kevin Corrigan) the loan shark who loves to pay regular threatening visits to Solo’s apartment and is dismayed to find that some of his money has gone to buying this dog. When Solo finally gives his unnamed companion a place to relieve himself other than his apartment, he meets Lola (Lynn Collins) who would rather be left alone until her pit bull puts the hurt on his pup and he has to borrow money from her to pay the vet bill. A connection is there though, however distant, and soon these two will be meeting again and again all thanks to this little creature that Solo knows he wants but doesn’t understand why.

Caan’s screenplay takes a delicate road to their relationship and its part of what makes The Dog Problem so refreshing. There’s an awkward and mostly standoff-ish meet-cute that gives way to a more playful and personal second meeting that reveals a lot about where each of them are at before Lola can verbalize it. The tension at a late-night breakfast (enhanced by Casper’s overt flirtation with one of Lola’s co-workers) is believable even while we know these two really like each other; personified in a beautifully shot car ride where the city lights perfectly contrast their foggy but glistening attraction for each other.

Ribisi may not seem the first choice for a romantic lead, but this is a performance that outshines all the years of quirky supporting roles he’s specialized in for over a decade. He’s indecisive and twitchy at times, but never annoying to the point of hindering the success we want for him. Caan has always been best when dialing down his jerky buddies to a straightforward manner that is beyond his characters’ understanding of how others perceive him in films like Friends with Money and the Ocean’s Eleven series. Like a less manic version of Swingers’ Trent to Ribisi’s Mikey, Caan brings a lot of laughs to what could have been just a throwaway role to give himself. Suvari and especially Corrigan also bring a much welcome oddity to their roles of the two adversaries who quickly come under the dog’s charms as well to the point of staging a street brawl between their respective bodyguards. The real find of the film is Lynn Collins, who was a standout two years ago as Portia in Michael Radford's Merchant of Venice, and here finds the perfect balance between outright sexiness and guarded sentiment. She helps create the relationship between Lola and Solo that might otherwise seem world’s apart for audiences focusing solely on the superficial.

“Life is a delicate negotiation” as the characters keep reminding us, just as careers in filmmaking can be. Scott Caan may have had a leg up on his, but the cream steadily rises to the top and as long as its fresh it will mix just nicely. With The Dog Problem, Caan has created the rarity; a romantic comedy which doesn’t force its charm down your throat and instead allows the viewer in to peek around its quirks and discover the true heart beating within. He trusts us to appreciate the way the story plays out and how its wonderful final moment is not some compulsory resolution but a summation on one of the most notable quotables about true love and the implications of a new beginning.

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originally posted: 09/21/06 05:02:11
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2006 Toronto Film Festival For more in the 2006 Toronto Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

12/16/09 A Girl so that's what the dog is! a tongan... 5 stars
8/29/09 Babbette B. An adorable movie! And, the dog doesn't die. 4 stars
8/24/09 Smitty Amazing. Most well done film I've seen in a while. 5 stars
7/23/09 Dr Joey Now everybody's gonna want a Tongan Terrier. 4 stars
3/17/09 :] awesome possum 5 stars
1/08/09 Mariah i thought the script was really good. 5 stars
9/10/08 lindsey amazingly funny and even touching movie...ribisi is my hero :] 4 stars
6/18/08 Rit funny, quirky... i didn't expect a lot and came away pleasantly surprised! has repeat value 4 stars
1/07/07 fido unbelievably bad.i walked out halfway through at TIFF - and I wanted to like it. Unfunny. 1 stars
9/29/06 AdamAnt One of the thinnest scripts in years. Meaningless, and acted without charm. 1 stars
9/14/06 Laura Fine A really funny film this years sideways 5 stars
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  29-Apr-2007 (R)
  DVD: 07-Aug-2007



Directed by
  Scott Caan

Written by
  Scott Caan

  Giovanni Ribisi
  Lynn Collins
  Scott Caan
  Kevin Corrigan
  Mena Suvari
  Don Cheadle

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