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Overall Rating

Worth A Look: 10.34%
Average: 9.2%
Pretty Bad: 1.15%
Total Crap: 6.9%

6 reviews, 51 user ratings

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Welcome to the Dollhouse
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by Rob Gonsalves

"Got Todd Solondz noticed, and rightfully so."
5 stars

From the ashes of Todd Solondz' ignored debut 'Fear, Anxiety and Depression' rose the phoenix of his second film, 'Welcome to the Dollhouse.' If not for the fact that Solondz disgustedly gave up on movies (based on the studio hassles on his first one) and went into teaching, he wouldn't have collected some of the material that made 'Dollhouse' a critical favorite and rejuvenated his career. Life does sometimes work like that.

This may remain Solondz' most user-friendly comedy, at least until he pulls a Straight Story and goes G-rated or something, but it still couldn't have been easy to market. The trailer made it look like the kind of whimsical revenge-of-the-nerd comedy it isn't -- it included all the funny scenes of junior-high hell we can all relate to, but was careful to leave out the painful, uncomfortable bits. Solondz' movies are really off-center psychodramas with occasional comic relief. Anyone expecting a bouncy, colorful trifle about a geeky girl who triumphs over her tormentors and gets the boy will instead find a story that seeks uneasy laughs in a little girl's kidnapping and a class bully's threat of rape.

Yet Dollhouse is consistently funny, starting with Heather Matarazzo's indie-film-star-making performance as Dawn Wiener, aka Wiener Dog, a tacky dresser and wallflower with blocky glasses and a chinless overbite. Matarazzo, in photos out of this character, is actually rather pretty, and has a warmer smile than she allows herself as Dawn, whose grins in her rare moments of happiness always look pained and desperate. Still, Matarazzo fearlessly lets Solondz dorkify her and stays inside Dawn's anguish and resentment. Dawn isn't a lovable martyr, either -- she can be prickly, and often has heated exchanges with her older brother Mark (Matthew Faber, looking like a young Bill Gates) and younger sister Missy (Daria Kalinina) -- especially Missy, whom her parents adore.

Dawn, who probably never expected to give or receive romantic attention, finds herself at the center of the weirdest triangle in recent movies. She falls haplessly in love with Steve Rodgers (Eric Mabius), a long-haired high-school hunk who sings and plays guitar in Mark's band. This part of the movie is a little stale; it doesn't speak well of Dawn's taste that she would fall for such an airhead, but then teenagers usually don't get to pick the objects of their undying love (come to think of it, neither do adults). Competing for Dawn's affections, in his own bizarre way, is the loutish Brandon (Brendan Sexton III), who torments her and says he'll rape her after school. Yet we discover that Brandon's bully act is just that, an act, and that he wants to be in her thoughts in some way, even dread-ridden thoughts.

Solondz puts Dollhouse in neutral for a while, observing Dawn's misfortunes with Steve and Brandon, and with her unsympathetic parents, who want to tear down her secret clubhouse in the yard to make room for the anniversary party they're throwing themselves. The last act, when Missy goes missing and we're invited to giggle at her mom's overplayed agony, gets a little iffy. But then that's the turf Solondz knows best -- the stuff we don't normally laugh at, or aren't supposed to laugh at.

'Dollhouse' deservedly established Solondz, seven years late, as a talent to watch. At its best it's like the funniest yet bleakest comic book Dan Clowes never drew; it would make a perfect double bill with 'Ghost World,' and I can imagine 'Dollhouse' being a favorite film of Enid and Rebecca, and vice versa.

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originally posted: 01/09/07 13:58:05
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User Comments

3/28/20 Bronwyn Blanchard Scathing teen desperation expose; Little miss sunrise finds erogenousness at rockbottom! 5 stars
3/25/18 morris campbell corny slice of life by a hack filmaker 1 stars
3/10/17 Anne Selby I can identify with some of the jr high hell...well done! 4 stars
9/08/11 Monica C best movie ever--life as it is! 5 stars
4/10/10 art a film set in new jersey,NEED I SAY MORE!? 1 stars
11/08/09 Joan Marie It's a terrible movie 1 stars
5/28/09 art RATED B FOR BAD! 1 stars
5/27/09 Josie Cotton is a goddess More realisitic than most documentaries 5 stars
5/20/09 art "WELCOME TO THE DOGHOUSE" 1 stars
8/25/06 Indrid Cold Somewhat overrated, but still an unusually frank, intelligent look at social outcasts. 4 stars
12/05/05 Jack Sommersby Long on crudeness, quite short on genuine wit and incisiveness. 2 stars
12/03/05 Jennifer S. I wanted to see something resolved in the story, but overall it was a decent movie. 3 stars
9/27/04 alicia quite possibly the worst movie i've ever seen.. and i've seen some damn bad movies. 1 stars
8/25/04 Jessica one of my favorites 5 stars
7/09/04 Rachel Wow, this movie is fucking histerical and me and my friend Jack loved it! 5 stars
6/17/04 jessie o'briant its awsume;bredan is a freakin' HOTTIE 5 stars
6/05/04 MyGreenBed It's fine, but not on par with "An Angel at my Table" nor "Parents". 3 stars
4/28/04 chunxiao jiang being shocked 4 stars
11/24/02 Charles Tatum Wonderful, hard to watch, perfect 5 stars
11/17/02 movie guy A REALLY GOOD FILN 5 stars
9/16/02 Julia I really enjoyed this movie, i can watch it over and over and like it every time! 5 stars
9/10/02 R.W. Welch Journey through junior hi hell; slightly overdrawn but has an original touch. 4 stars
1/20/02 Andrew Carden Life Sucks...and This Is The Movie That Covers The Topic. 5 stars
12/30/01 sarafina I hate it so much I squirmed in my seat. Simply divine 4 stars
10/29/01 Carly like happiness, cruel and hilarious 5 stars
7/09/01 Roy Smith So painfully honest it's sometimes hard to watch. But you must! 5 stars
6/06/01 perverted pixie Apart from the under use of Lolita - bloody perfection! Dawn I knew how you fucking felt. 5 stars
4/25/01 Spetters Happiness has more scope, but this is still brilliant! 5 stars
4/19/01 colette wonderfully brutal 5 stars
3/05/01 sanam who else was pissed that Dawn didn't get with Brandon(hot)?? my heart went out for him 5 stars
3/03/01 mad hatter Excellent work. Great stroy and acting. 5 stars
2/25/01 *~Danielle*Ophelia~* (formerly KyLe*BrOfLoVsKi) OH FUCK!!! I AM DAWN WEINER!!! 5 stars
2/21/01 Rocket Boy Hilarious and horrifyingly sad at the same time. 5 stars
1/28/01 Tokyo Buck The movie is tight! 5 stars
11/25/00 Blubberbot A great film. 5 stars
7/12/99 ken heine the dope smoking scene was cool. 5 stars
6/15/99 Bevan R. Clark Not as good as "Happiness"yet it'll still go down as being a great subversive masterpiece. 5 stars
4/11/99 Alonzo ( Weiner Dog rocked!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 5 stars
12/01/98 Evil Buffy this film was so depressing,funny & weird so i loved it. sick n twisted the way reality is 5 stars
11/26/98 Mr.Pink Ending is a shocker. Funny and painful. 4 stars
11/09/98 Lord Of The Dunce I thought I was going to hate this, but it was awesome. Suburbia at it's worst. 5 stars
10/28/98 Silent Rob Stellar character execution. A solid piece of 'life as art' filmmaking. 5 stars
10/18/98 Kwyjibo Awesomely real. Mantazarro was awesome, but the role was perfect for her. 5 stars
10/08/98 cheryl_ann it was pretty good, in a really fucked up kinda way. 4 stars
10/02/98 Johny Seriously bothered me, but in the way it was designed too. Well done. 4 stars
9/25/98 helgeas Wiener is so mean. She'll grow up and be Roseanne or something. 5 stars
9/18/98 Couch Potato Critic A truly anazing film about the angst of being young and unpopular. 5 stars
9/09/98 MikeF I don't remember 7'th grade like that. but the movie still rocked. 5 stars
9/06/98 Admiral Mung Bean Soda (+/- 12db) Disturbing. The first movie to bring tears to my eyes since Schindler's List. 5 stars
8/29/98 Mister Whoopee A great little indie. Bizarre. 5 stars
8/25/98 Miss Stress i felt sorry for the poor girl. 4 stars
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  24-May-1996 (R)



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