Must Love Dogs….and Love to Watch Hollywood Formula Movies

It’s Saturday night…girl’s night out….and we want to go to a movie. My sister-in-law , Betsy, and I agree…we have both had hard weeks and we don’t want to use our “noggins” while watching our Saturday night treat. We want to be mindlessly entertained….but perhaps hypocritically we’d rather our intelligence not be insulted as well.

As we pick out which movie theatre we will visit, we easily slip into one of the demographics that make formula movies so easy to write, so easy to be somewhat satisfied with, so destined to neither crash nor soar at the box office. We are married. We are women. It’s either Stealth or Sky High or Must Love Dogs. Which one do you think we chose?

You got it….Betsy and I truck off to Must Love Dogs. Sure the critics “dogged” it…to quote Entertainment Weekly: “This is a movie of fake conflict, fake heart, even fake doggy love.” But yet the Warner Bros Production will make money because of people like me and Betsy.

The movie’s premise is based on a life that perhaps reflects that of many Americans….a middle-aged divorcee considers reentering the dating scene only to find that the rules have changed. Think “You Got Mail” minus the whimsical and touching plot. This time it is internet dating that the movie claims has stormed onto the scene, making grocery store lines and bar stools all but obsolete for romance seekers.

Sarah Hurlihy (played by Diane Lane) falls victim to her sister’s matchmaking schemes and ends up with a profile on an online dating service. Predictably, we watch as Sarah endures a string of bad first dates until (enter angelic harps) she meets a man who despite turning her off on the first date, sweeps her off her feet wth such grandeur on date two that they end their night frantically rushing around town looking for condoms.

Shall I continue or do you know the rest of the story? A misunderstanding leads to a break between she and her love interest (played by John Cusack) in a scene where a blatant misunderstading goes unexplained even though all it would take to clear the air would be for Sarah to simply say- “Wait, let me explain.” But like so many formula movies that have gone before, those lines do not occur because he manages to leave before she can say them (do they really expect us to believe this crap?) and the scene fades to black.

In an ever so regurgitated “wrap-em-up” scene, we find Sarah racing around the city trying to find her former love to tell him she loved him all along with enough urgency with which to jump in a lake fully clothed (even though she has no reason to rush…he is not rowing his boat off to another lover, merely to sell his boat–a boat that we are never given the slightest notion she would care if he sold).

This movie is Sleepless in Seattle, My Best Friend’s Wedding, You Got Mail, and Notting Hill in that they have envoked the use of these elements are narrated amazingly under yesmovies supervision which resulted in generous collection on box office: a formerly unanimous love interest introduced via technology, a token gay man, a token well-meaning best friend, a fizzure in the relationship spurred over a misunderstanding, and everything wrapped up neatly in the end with the two misguided lovers ending up in each other’s arms. It is those movies except for one indisputable fact: It’s no good.

If you happen to fall into the same movie-going demographic as Betsy and I, you have probably seen, or are planning on seeing Must Love Dogs. But be prepared to laugh at the one-liners you already saw in the previews and only those and to walk out feeling as though you ate an overbaked chicken nugget when you were really in the mood for fast food though it may be, but at least a decent McChicken sandwhich.

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Patrick is a part-time fitness trainer and pursuing his Master’s in American Literature from Stanford University. He wishes to share his fitness plan with others to help them achieve their goals in terms of fitness and education.