Must We Love Dogs?

Columbus Alive | July 28, 2005
With previous credits including TV hits The Bob Newhart Show, Family Ties and Spin City, writer/director Gary David Goldberg has as good or better a resume as most makers of mainstream romantic comedies. But those hits were a long time ago, and it’s been more than 15 years since Goldberg helmed something for the big screen. Age and wear can be seen all over his latest work, an adaptation of Claire Cook’s novel which combines a very likable cast with familiar set pieces and unreliable wit.

Diane Lane is Sarah, a teacher who was recently divorced and is not taking it well. After several months her large, meddling Irish family starts leaving her photos of potential dates as a clear statement that it’s time to move on.

Her sister Carol (Elizabeth Perkins) goes a step further by posting Sarah’s profile on an Internet dating site. Not surprisingly, every guy who responds is a loser, except John Cusack’s Jake, who’s also gone through a bad breakup and has someone else to blame for his online profile. Sarah’s reluctance and Jake’s chatty intensity lead to a few false starts on their path to true love, and as they find their footing, the situation is further complicated by the beefcake father of one of Sarah’s students (Dermot Mulroney).

It’s a genuine challenge to not like Lane, no matter what film she’s in or how wishy-washy her character might be, as in this case. Though it’s too similar to past roles, Jake is a perfect character for Cusack—a cerebral, creative, romantic version of your average Joe—and the actor excels in it. Perkins offers capable support, along with Christopher Plummer as Sarah’s widowed father and Stockard Channing as his main love interest (Mulroney, on the other hand, is wasted).

Unfortunately, the cast can only take an excessively cute and verbose script so far. It’s too often not as clever as it strains to be, and it’s further cobbled by a few hackneyed ethnic references. (Have you ever heard anyone, Irish or otherwise, say “your sainted mother” with a straight face?)

Then there are the two rom-com staples, the sing-along and the last-reel chase. The latter is entirely mechanical, but it’s not the train wreck of the former. At least My Best Friend’s Wedding gave us Burt Bacharach, while Goldberg serves up the theme from The Partridge Family. By halfway through, “Come on get happy” feels like a tall order.

Columbus Alive

Founded in 1983, Alive is the Capital City's oldest and only independent alternative and is known for providing a forum for the area's free thinkers. The paper's spirited and original perspective on music, arts and culture distinguish it from the...
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