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Must Love — Really Love — Generic Romantic Comedies

By Kathy Lin

Must Love Dogs

Directed by Gary David Goldberg

Screenplay written by Gary David Goldberg

Based on the book by Claire Cook

Starring Diane Lane and John Cusack

Rated PG-13

My afternoon showing of “Must Love Dogs” was attended primarily by groups of old ladies and slightly awkward, lonely-looking men, and unless you fall in one of those groups, I’d suggest skipping this one.

“Dogs” tells the tale of Jake (John Cusack) and Sarah (Diane Lane), both recently divorced, who predictably fall in love after a bumpy initial relationship. Their coming together, as we know all too well from commercials and trailers, is the result of meddling on the internet by pushy friends and family. Apparently it’s not acceptable to be single eight months, or immediately for that matter, after divorce.

On-screen romances can certainly offer valuable lessons, or at least leave you feeling a little warmer inside — and I happen to love quite a few movies in this genre — but “Dogs” is destined to quickly join the ranks of forgotten movies, the kind that will be on sale at Blockbuster mere weeks after coming out on DVD.

“Dogs” is loaded with cookie-cutter lines, too many coincidences (How many preschool sharing times are filled with stories of strange men sleeping over in Mommy’s bed?), overall mediocre acting, and a lack of chemistry among the actors.

Lane, whose acting has seen better days, is unfortunately distant and cool, and I blame her for the lack of chemistry between the two main characters. The only true moment of warmth I felt in the chilly theater was when I put on my jacket.

But all is not lost. Cusack offers several touching moments, his eyes sometimes filling with depth and emotion. Some supporting actors contribute a few touching scenes as well — when a little boy bubbles over with excitement over adopting a dog, for example, and when Sarah’s father reflects on his deceased wife.

Unfortunately, these moments are fleeting. A somewhat touching dinner that temporarily restored what little hope I had for movie, for example, was immediately ruined by a crazed citywide search for a condom in a fit of passion.

The supporting cast contributes some humorous moments, though they also deliver more than their fair share of dull moments. Many of them irritated me with an excessive penchant for nosiness, an unusually active sex drive, and no desire for monogamy.

Although we’ve learned not to expect too much from romantic comedies, there are those worth watching and those not worth watching. Let’s just say that my favorite part of this movie-watching experience was the catchy but sweet singing in the preview for the upcoming cinematic rendition of “Rent.”