With films like Show Dogs, and even Christopher Robin, making folks warm and fuzzy through the aide of non-human friends, the market for cute animal-centric films seems like it’s in a bit of a boom at the moment. So naturally, it’s the best time for a film like Dog Days to hit theaters, what with its subject matter and title promising some late-season summer fun. While the film is a bit slight in its story, it’s still a good source for heartwarming, non-offensive humor that anyone who’s in the mood for such content can enjoy.
Through the course of several days in Los Angeles, numerous intersecting stories are told involving dogs and their humans. In those stories we’ll see a pair of morning anchors falling in love (Nina Dobrev and Tone Bell), new parents learning the ropes of day care and dog care (Eva Longoria and Rob Corddry,) and various other stories progressing, with everyone growing through their involvements with each other and their four-legged counterparts. Everything leads to one magical night, where the city bands together to save a local animal shelter, leading to one final, surprising chain of events.
If the makers of Dog Days really wanted to get cute, they could have named their film “Woof, Actually.” The intersecting-story format has been oft imitated by films like Valentine’s Day and various other Garry Marshall-directed films, but director Ken Marino’s stab at the formula seems to be closer to the mark than those films ever were. Part of that success is due to the fact that the emotional beats are easier to land when you’re using animals to assist, but it also helps that the humor present is harmless at worst, and worthy of some good-hearted chuckles at best.
Much like any film imitating Richard Curtis’s holiday masterpiece of love and its various foibles, Dog Days has a bit of a problem with stuffing too many stories and characters into a mold that would have been better suited with a more streamlined approach. One such example is the Adam Pally storyline, which sees his character Dax taking care of his sister and brother-in-law’s dog after the birth of their twins. If this story was merely focused on his care of the dog, it would have been a cleaner exercise in humor than what’s shown in the film. Instead, we’re given a story that includes a couple of visits with his family, and those moments are some of the more clichéd pieces of the film’s script.
There’s also a small problem with tone, as one portion of the film shifts too quickly between a very emotional moment and a comedic beat intended to garner a laugh. If you’ve ever been a pet owner, you pretty much know where this is going, but let’s just say that it’s not a good idea to hit your audience with a tearful goodbye and follow up with a rendition of “Amazing Grace” that’s not quite sure if it wants you to laugh or mourn. Thankfully, there’s a good balance between humor that the adult half of the audience will get, and jokes that kids can enjoy without too much explanation, so Dog Days isn’t a total tonal mess.
Overall, Dog Days still has a good amount of synergy between the majority of Dog Days’ stories, which keeps things moving at a brisk pace through the film’s run time. The film doesn’t lag, nor does it patronize its audience, leaving a fluffy experience that can be enjoyed as a treat for all. With some sharpening, it could have been a funnier experience, and it’s amazing that so many of the outtakes running through the film’s credits weren’t left in the film, as they were some of the funniest moments of improv. If you want to laugh, cry, and celebrate the animals in your life, Dog Days will have you sitting and staying with very little problem.