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Year of the Dog
DVD disk
08.21.2007 By: Mathew Plale
Year of the Dog order
Director:
Mike White

Actors:
Molly Shannon
Peter Sarsgaard
Regina King

Rating:
Movie:
Extras:
Overall:

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WHAT'S IT ABOUT?
When secretary Peggy's (Shannon) dog dies, she goes searching for love...and more dogs.
IS IT A GOOD MOVIE?
“I got a new dog,” Peggy belts to her newly-engaged coworker. It’s not much to match, but it’s literally all she has. Well, she had Pencil, her smaller-than-a-breadbox beagle, who after a night out digested a bit too much poison. But now she has a new dog, appropriately named Valentine.

Peggy is played by Saturday Night Live alum Molly Shannon, who presents herself as the most charming English teacher you’ve never had. She’s a person we want to see happy, not simply because she’s a good-natured person with love to give, but because she deserves it. After all, don’t we really want the best for someone with more sweaters than Mr. Rogers and Pam Beesly combined?

Year of the Dog, the simple, quirky (though not overly so) debut from Mike White (who penned hits Orange County, The Good Girl, and School of Rock) had its opening at the 2007 Sundance Film Festival, and its everything you might expect from such a movie. The supporting characters are manufactured with “Sundance quirks,” like Newt (Sarsgaard), the celibate vegan over the legal limit of housing pooches, and Al (John C. Reilly), a big game and knife enthusiast whom Peggy suspects of killing Pencil.

White is smart enough to not make the laughs depend on a series of awkward first-dates with these men—in fact, the movie doesn’t rely on chuckles nearly enough as it could. It boasts a certain admiration for its lead, but misplaces it in its sad and desperate third act in a turn where White seems to betray poor Peggy, slabbing her into a borderline-psychotic.

Other than that, the movie plays in safe territory, sometimes to a fault, with White so seemingly unsure of himself as a “newbie” he keeps the camera latched to the tripod, resulting in distant storytelling. But the cast keeps us involved for the most part, with Shannon doing a marvelous job as the animal rights activist who philosophizes to her niece the difference between heaven (Babe) and hell (the slaughterhouse). In the dangerous realm of post-SNL downward spiral, it looks like Mary Katherine Gallagher could have a stable career in the indie spotlight.

Mike White’s Year of the Dog, even for its interfering safety net and PETA nonsense, doesn’t quite screw the pooch. It could’ve been much worse; at least it wasn’t about cats…
THE EXTRAS
Commentary by Mike White and Molly Shannon: Neither really provides a whole lot of expert knowledge, with White doing most of the talking (in a rather humdrum voice). Shannon chimes in with giggles more than dialogue.

A Special Breed of Comedy: The Making of…(16:17) is your standard Making Of, complete with plot and character analysis, story development, and an overall look at the movie. Nothing special, but fans of Year of the Dog will enjoy the insight from the cast and director that was lacking in the commentary.

Being Molly Shannon (4:10) is a look into her work as a subtle performer and how this role differs from her previous endeavors, while Mike White Unleashed (4:17) goes into White’s first “journey” into directing.

Special Animal Unit (3:44) is a piece for the dog trainers and their difficult yet rewarding job.

The Deleted Scenes w/ optional director commentary (11:51) don’t really provide much to the story or characters that we couldn’t have figured out already, so you might want to skip these.

The Insert Reel (1:49) and Gag Reel (3:05) are just what you’d expect.

Moviefone Unscripted with Molly Shannon and Mike White (6:46) is a Q&A between the two as they field questions from one another and “you.”

And Previews.
FINAL DIAGNOSIS
A fine little Sundance flick, Year of the Dog may be worth scoping out for a restrained performance from Molly Shannon, who along with the rest of the cast make Mike White's directorial debut a tolerable watch.
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