Must Love Dogs is every inch the cookie-cutter romantic comedy that's advertised, with one notable exception: it has almost nothing to do with dogs. In fact, neither lead even owns a dog, having to borrow just so they can "meet cute" in the dog park. The alternative could have been worse -- it could have been one of those flicks where pets are worshipped like infants, and owning one determines whether or not you're a good person. But at least that would have been more honest than pulling a bait-and-switch on an eager audience of canine lovers. A better title might have been "Must Tolerate Pushy In-Laws," as Diane Lane's sweet but hopeless divorcée is smothered by a half-dozen brothers and sisters, her father, her father's three girlfriends, her gay best friend, and his boyfriend. Adding to this swarm are two suitors (played by Dermot Mulroney and John Cusack), not to mention their friends, in some cases their children, and a handful of bad blind dates, who are introduced via two separate instances of the ever-popular "disastrous date montage." Must Love Dogs wants to be the first night's homework in Romantic Comedy 101 -- director Gary David Goldberg includes documentary-style interviews with his fictitious couples, à la When Harry Met Sally, and in another common device, Cusack's character obsesses over a classic movie (Doctor Zhivago), thereby proving he's a person of substance. (Must Love Dogs also aspires to full-on chick-flick royalty, as Lane and two sisters talk about watching Beaches). But in the case of When Harry Met Sally specifically, less was a whole lot more. That film never felt under-populated, even with both leads limited to essentially one buddy/sounding board apiece. Must Love Dogs, on the other hand, feels consistently over-stuffed -- with everything but dogs, that is.
by Derek Armstrong review