Thursday, July 14, 2005

MUST LOVE DOGS, starring Diane Lane and John Cusack, rated PG-13 for some scenes of animated violence.

Diane Lane stars as Sarah Hurlihy, an attractive, single middle-aged woman with a terrible secret: she's an android, whose mission is to take good roles in movies from human actresses. Also, her circuitry is programmed with a prime directive that she can under no circumstances disobey, which obviously provides the title of the film.

So once she's uncovered the awful truth about her life, her recent breakup and career as a preschool teacher become even more depressing. Fortunately, she's got one of those meddling movie sisters who enjoys the feeling of superiority she gets by trying to set Sarah up with guys. The result is a long parade of colorful losers that Sarah has to date: disco guy; obnoxious lawyer guy; too-eager-for-sex guy; probably-gay guy; eskimo-with-a-harpoon guy; bumblebee-costume-guy; former-president-of-the-united-states-who-isn't-carter-bush-or-ford guy. You've seen the scene before.

Finally, in desperation, meddling sister puts a personal ad in the paper on behalf of her sister that says what a lovely, sensitive person she is and describes the type of non-loser man that she would like to meet and also says she's easy. As a result, another cavalcade of creeps present themselves to Sarah for inspection, but this time, having discovered her android powers, she shapes her index finger into a long, pointy knife like the creepy cop in Terminator 2 and stabs them in the eye one by one after the salad course.

After that, the movie gets a little gratuitous with the violence for my taste. Sarah becomes a killing machine that threatens the whole planet. Eventually, Morgan Freeman (the President, of course) is forced to make a speech on television in which he advises everyone that the United States has chosen to do what it must in order to survive, which means that scientists, artists, politicians, NFL cheerleaders and a handful of other important personages are to be evacuated immediately to a secure bunker in a Bahamas resort.

John Cusack is a single father caught up in this world-ending madness, responsible for protecting his wide-eyed daughter, played by Verne Troyer, from the onslaught. As cities are destroyed one by one, Cusack remains determined to stand with surviving remnant of society not on the beach in the Bahamas and find a way to defeat Sarah before the threat spreads to other countries.

Eventually, his rag-tag band of cohorts discover that Sarah has no resistance to water, which makes her sister realize why Sarah always refused to go shopping for swimsuits with her even though she was always so thin and everyone hated her for it. I'll try not to ruin the ending, but Cusack sets up a Wile E. Coyote-style trap wherein she pulls a rope next to a sign that says: "Pull Rope for Perfect Man." The rope doesn't in fact deliver a perfect man, but instead, pours a cartoony silver bucket of water on her head and she melts like the Wicked Witch of the West.

I'm not the first person to express my displeasure with Hollywood's belief that it can just jam-pack a movie with special effects and then expect us to line up to watch it. Unfortunately, MUST LOVE DOGS is a stereotypical example of just such a movie. On the other hand, it has Diane Lane in most of the scenes.

On a scale of "War of the Worlds" on the radio in 1929 on the good end to "War of the Worlds" as a movie in 2005 on the other, I give MUST LOVE DOGS an "At Least Diane Lane Is In Most Of The Scenes."

Special note: if, like Sarah, you'd like to kill losery suitors that you've had a hard time breaking up with, this movie as a double feature with "Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants" provides a certain but legal way of getting the job done.


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