White's directorial debut is Shannon's best friend

Year Of The Dog

on April 13, 2007 by Tim Cogshell
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Screenwriter/actor-turned-director Mike White provides in his directorial debut Year of the Dog a charming film that is neither saccharin nor sanctimonious as it treads the well-worn romantic comedy genre, not so much dismantling it as rearranging it just enough to make it interesting—and perhaps just a little scary.

Peggy (the unsinkable Molly Shannon) is a single woman with a beagle named Pencil, a dog as cinematically adorable as any movie canine has ever been. He dies, tragically, rather early in the film, leaving Peggy, who even in the company of Pencil was a loner, definitively lonely. Peggy is no social freak. In fact, among her group of friends and family—including a coworker (Regina King), brother and sister in-law (Tom McCarthy and Laura Dern), all of whom are a good deal more twisted than she (just in more socially acceptable ways)—Peggy is a perfectly reasonable personality. Peggy meets two guys: a neighbor, Al, played by John C. Reilly, whom some would call boorish and others just a dude; and a vegan animal rescuer named Newt (Peter Sarsgaard), who seems like a perfect fit for Peggy, and is many ways, but is no panacea for her human interactions either.

The theme of being stuck, emotionally or otherwise, runs through each of White's previous screenplays ( Nacho Libre notwithstanding). The Good Girl and School of Rock are indicative, and in Chuck & Buck White himself played the emotionally (and psychologically) afflicted central character who can not or will not let go. Like Peggy, these are all characters that really need to move on but can't, at least not without a nudge. Most interestingly, when they do move on, there's no telling what will happen. It isn't always great, or even all that good. It's just…necessary. Distributor: Paramount Vantage
Cast: Molly Shannon, Laura Dern, Regina King, Tom McCarthy, Josh Pais, John C. Reilly and Peter Sarsgaard
Director/Screenwriter: Mike White
Producers: Mike White, Dede Gardner and Ben LeClair
Genre: Romantic comedy
Rating: PG-13 for some suggested references
Running time: 97 min.
Release date: April 13, 2007 ltd

Tags: Molly Shannon, Laura Dern, Regina King, Tom McCarthy, Josh Pais, John C. Reilly, Peter Sarsgaard, Mike White, Dede Gardner, Ben LeClair, Romantic Comedy, emotional, canine, vegan
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