Year of the Dog – DVD Review

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Mike White


Molly Shannon……….Peggy
Laura Dern……….Bret
Regina King……….Layla
Thomas McCarthy……….Pier
Josh Pais……….Robin
John C. Reilly……….Al
Peter Sarsgaard……….Newt

The Movie

The relationship that develops between a human and a dog is something unique in the animal kingdom. Dogs have long since attained the status of being “man’s best friend” and are now a staple of the nuclear household. One can tell the status of the dog by the reaction to the recent dog-fighting scandal involving NFL QB Michael Vick. NBA superstar Kobe Bryant was charged with rape and was allowed to attend his trial during the season with little fanfare or protest; people were upset, but the sorts of mass protests and general antipathy against Vick are nothing Kobe received.

When it comes to dogs, people hold their treatment to a standard unlike any other animal. It’s ok to race horses and we slaughter cattle for food, yet putting dogs in violent fights disgusts every decent person out there. Yet the only films that handle dogs have been bad Disney movies like Air Bud. Man’s relationship to the canine hasn’t really been explored in a lot of ways on the silver screen. After a small art house run earlier in the year, Year of the Dog has been released onto DVD.

Molly Shannon stars as Peggy, whose dog Pencil has recently passed. She’s around 40, an executive assistant whose whole life has somehow involved her dog. The film is an exploration of her life after the death of Pencil, from getting a new dog with the help of an animal hospital employee (Newt) to adopting a new eating regime.

It’s an offbeat film that has an instant appeal for anyone who’s a dog lover, obviously, but it has a heart to it that the sort of family films involving dogs generally don’t have. This is an adult way of looking at the trials and rewards of being a dog owner; it’s refreshing to see a film involving animals that doesn’t pander towards children. The film’s script, which White also wrote, has lots of subtle jabs and quirky one-liners to keep the film interesting. And just when the film reaches a lull point there’s a good physical gag to throw the viewer off balance.

It wouldn’t work if it didn’t have a great comedian like Shannon in the lead role. Years of being the funniest woman on Saturday Night Live has honed her comedic instincts and this film is the sort of vehicle to show them. The film requires a lot of reactions and quality timing out of her; it’s a demanding role and she’s wonderful in it.

While White does go for the easy heart tug, as people’s relations to dogs doesn’t require a lot to be emotional, it’s a really good if quirky film.


Presented in a Dolby Digital 5.1 format in a widescreen presentation, complete with 2.40:1 aspect ratio, the film has a really good audio and visual component to it. The film doesn’t have a lot of picturesque shots or vivid colors, nor does it have a booming soundtrack, but what it requires it does well.

The Extras

A Special Breed of Comedy: The Making of Year of the Dog is a look at the reasons why this film was made. After losing a pet of his own, White wrote the script because he wanted to do a film about animals and their relationship to people with a more adult look at it as opposed to the usual family film motif that’s used. There’s a lot of fluff in this piece, unfortunately, but there’s a lot of good stuff in it from the cast talking about the film that it somehow remains an interesting piece.

Being Molly Shannon is a short piece exploring Shannon’s role in the film and her feelings towards it. It’s interesting to hear her discuss the difference between comedic acting and dramatic acting, as well as doing a smaller role in a film as opposed to being a major player in one.

Mike White Unleashed is a short piece on the director as he discusses what it’s like to direct this film and directing in general.

Special Animal Unit is a look at the animal trainers and their various methods in training the animals.

Moviefone: Unscripted has Shannon and White on it, responding to each other’s and viewer questions.

There’s the usual Deleted Scenes and Gag Reel as well as an Insert Reel to go with some previews.

Commentary with Mike White and Molly Shannon

The DVD Lounge’s Ratings for Year Of The Dog
(OUT OF 10)