Wednesday, September 19, 2012

No Problem Here: "The Dog Problem" (2007)



Before watching this film, not a lot came to mind when I see the name "Scott Caan." Famous dad, supporting roles in a few good movies; I always thought he looked like that jock in high school whose name escapes you at your high school reunion. But then I watched "The Dog Problem."

Caan wrote and directed the story of Solo (Giovanni Ribisi), a one-book wonder author who has therapy five days a week with his shrink (an unbilled Don Cheadle). His psychiatrist suggests Solo get a pet in one of their last sessions; "last" because Solo is not only broke, but owes money to loan shark Benny (Kevin Corrigan).

Solo gets a small Tongan terrier, and immediately has issues with the dog; Ribisi's phone conversations with Brad the pet store worker are a riot. Solo's best friend, womanizing photographer Casper (Scott Caan) introduces Solo to Jules (Mena Suvari), a spoiled socialite whose good deed to the world is to take in little dogs, love them, then release them to rich homes. Solo gets more and more attached to the still unnamed dog, and meets Lola (the excellent Lynn Collins), a stripper who is more complicated than her job lets on. When Solo's dog turns up missing, Solo realizes the animal means more to him than he knew.

This film is a blast. The creepy thing is: every conversation between Solo and Casper feels so real, I swear I have had the same talks verbatim with friends of mine. Caan has such a great ear for dialogue, and none of the flaws, run-ons, and incomplete sentences feel forced. His screenplay is so accurate, it's almost painful to hear Lola talk about her celibacy and goalless life. Caan gives himself some very funny scenes but keeps all the attention on Solo, where it should be. Ribisi is perfect.

Caan's confident camerawork is mind blowing. Toss in everything from the impressive opening title sequence to Mark Mothersbaugh's infectious score and Caan smoothly uses his shots without nervous trepidation. I had some quibbles about Benny and Jules, but by the time the ending came, I didn't care, I just found everything here extremely funny. My final realization that Caan is a strong comic director? While there are just enough shots of the cute dog, there are no "cute" shots of the dog. No "isn't he adorable!' No "aah, puppy!" I sincerely thank him for that.

"The Dog Problem" is Caan's second directorial effort, and I have not laughed at a movie like this in a long time. It's a funny film I happily recommend. (* * * * *) out of five stars. Get this movie now!: The Dog Problem