With 2018 being such a massive year at the movies, it’s easy to overlook some potential gems in what’s become a crowded summer. As of this writing, family-friendly superheroes still rank heavily in the Top 10, with Marvel Studios’ Ant-Man and The Wasp, Disney-Pixar’s Incredibles 2 and Warner Bros. Animation’s Teen Titans GO! to the Movies jockeying for position in a crowded field currently dominated by Tom Cruise in Mission Impossible: Fallout, Disney’s Christopher Robin (reviewed here) and sequels from the Hotel Transylvania and Mamma Mia! franchises (did ABBA spawn a franchise? I guess I just said it). Call it “counter-programming,” but there’s something charming about a little movie about the ways that canine companions can help bring people together arriving in theaters just two days ahead of a film about a prehistoric, everything-eating shark (THE MEG). From LD Entertainment, DOG DAYS is a late-summer surprise that’s worthy of a look – a family film with crossover appeal that’s driven by the strength of its ensemble cast… a cast that doesn’t spend a lot of time on-screen with one another.
When I heard the initial one-liner – “a group of interconnected people in Los Angeles who are brought together by their lovable canine counterparts” – the description conjured a simple film that could’ve easily been made for the Hallmark Channel. That’s not to say that the audiences that love those heartfelt, but modestly-budgeted affairs won’t love this – they absolutely will – but DOG DAYS is a film that’s deserving of a bigger audience.
Directed by Ken Marino (How to Be a Latin Lover, MTV’s The State) from a screenplay by Elissa Matsueda and Erica Oyama (Marino’s wife), DOG DAYS features the tandem narrative of various individuals and families linked by dogs in sometimes unexpected ways. It’s hardly unpredictable, but there’s a lot to love in a light comedy that entertains by bringing the laughs (and maybe a tear or two) and sending audiences on their way with smiles on their faces.
Among the individual stories and characters we have Nina Dobrev (The Vampire Diaries) as a morning TV host who finds herself paired with Tone Bell’s (Disjointed) ex-athlete co-host (not unlike Kelly Ripa and Michael Strahan once were); Vanessa Hudgens (High School Musical) as a barista seen constantly fawning over local veterinarian, “Dr. Mike” (The O.C.’s Michael Cassidy); Jon Bass (Baywatch) as the owner of a dog rescue; Finn Wolfhard (Stranger Things) and Ron Cephas Jones (Luke Cage) playing on the young kid/grumpy old man dynamic; with Rob Corddry (Hot Tub Time Machine) and Eva Longoria (Desperate Housewives) as new parents of an adopted daughter.
Personally, I could go for an entire film based solely around Adam Pally (The Mindy Project) as Dax, as he juggles life as a member of the band Frunkd (fronted by Hamilton‘s Jasmine Cephas Jones as Lola) while watching the dog owned by his sister Ruth (Jessica St. Clair) and her husband Greg (Thomas Lennon) while they struggle as parents of newborn twins. Of course, Dax lives in the same building as Hudgens’ Tara. I also have some curiosity regarding his band’s setlist, which includes reworkings of hits from Right Said Fred, New Kids On the Block and… Baha Men.
There’s an almost Muppets-like plot piece that sets the wheels in motion to bring all of our characters together, and of course there’s some happy endings that you’ll have to see for yourselves. DOG DAYS is an honest film about good people that want to do what’s best for the world around them, and despite the title, it’s a film that’s built upon very human relationships – but the dogs are there to help them along in finding their way.
DOG DAYS is in theaters now. Get tickets via my affiliate, Fandango.