Monday, June 15, 2015

A Woman and Her Baby Substitute: "Gone Doggy Gone" (2015)

This funny riff on a couple's obsession with their Yorkshire Terrier sadly loses steam toward a disappointing, virtually nonexistent climax.

Abby (Kasi Brown) and Eliott (Brandon Walter) Harmon are a power couple who have little to do with each other after they get home at night, showering all of their attention on their dog, Laila. The Harmons have no children, and Abby seems to coddle the cute dog more, eventually rejecting her husband. Laila is babysat by Jill (Shaina Vorspan), a semi-neurotic with plenty of issues, and recently fired from a temp job (in the film's funniest scene). Jill runs off with Laila, and the Harmons are in full pursuit, along with Kat (Kate Connor), Abby's best friend who is trying to fight off middle age by sleeping with younger men and getting high and drunk all the time. Abby and Eliott also hire private investigator Dan (Jeff Sloniker), who finds himself falling for Jill, and a chase across the American Southwest is on.

Brown and Walter wrote and directed the film, giving themselves some fun parts but still letting the supporting characters play. Dan is a disgusting oaf, under the thumb of his father (the recognizable Richard Riehle, who seems to have appeared in everything ever). Jill is also under her own mother's (an underused Marsha Waterbury) thumb, and the two make an immediate connection. The casting is terrific, Brown and Walter are excellent in their roles, even taking chances that not many writers would do to themselves (I'm thinking of the robbery scene in particular).

The comedy is fun, and Brown is a gifted physical comedienne. Walter is laid back, letting the interplay between Abby and Kat take over. Kat is a fun, but not necessary character, the same with some mobster guy (Miles Stroh), who is introduced and dispatched before the viewer can get a real handle on him. I liked the trip to Kat's hippie friend's (a very funny Lizzie Peet) place, even if it was a little obvious, but suddenly in the climax of the story, the film makers back off and seem unsure of where to go with it. It's sloppily edited, unfunny, and it doesn't match the energy of the rest of the film. Technically, the film is flawless for a smaller budget. The sound is great, the picture is clear, and the cinematography and editing (up until the climax) is top notch.

"Gone Doggy Gone" reminded me of this new round of Melissa McCarthy/Paul Feig comedies, letting a female lead really come into her own, and getting to do all the "fun" stuff normally reserved for the boys in films like "The Hangover." This film does a commendable job, and serves as a feature length introduction to what should be a long comedic screen career for the Brown/Walter team. (* * * *) out of five stars.