Ahh, those funny little Kids from Canada. I’m not sure exactly when it happened, but at some point in the 90’s, The Kids in the Hall became North America’s answer to Monty Python. Now, that’s not to say that the Kids are as classically funny as the Pythons, but the similarities run rampant nonetheless. Both troupes had a very successful sketch comedy television series, in which many of the all-male cast dressed in drag. Following the success of their respective shows, they both explored what feature films might conta…n. Following this exploration, they both performed some of their classic material before a live audience. The last part of the puzzle is the emergence of one of the cast members as a serious Director; for the Pythons, it was Gilliam, and for the Kids, it’s Bruce MuCulloch.
Just to make this clear yet again, I am certainly not saying that Gilliam and MuCulloch are equals in the world of film… far from it. I can say, however, that McCulloch is off to a good start, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him evolve into a talented comedy director in the future. Dog Park is a basic romantic comedy, with indie sensibilities and a twisted view of dog owners. Think Best in Show meets When Harry Met Sally.
While this is a moderately entertaining film, it’s certainly not anything to write home about. MuCulloch certainly knows how to create a film technically, but his major growth area lies in the fact that he does not know how to get the most out of his actors. The majority of the performances in this film are phoned in, which most likely comes as a result of the director not getting enough takes of each scene. While Luke Wilson does well, and has some really nice comic timing, many of the other actors are rigid, and seem to be disinterested in the whole affair. (One notable exception, however, is the work of fellow KITH alum Mark McKinney, who plays a dog psychiatrist. His hilarious performance alone makes this film worth checking out.)
This is a fine film for a lazy Saturday afternoon, or for big fans of the Kids. As indie romantic comedies go, the flick is up to the standards set by its peers. There are some genuinely funny moments here, which make the bad parts bearable. As reflected in the numerical rating listed above, this film is average.
While this is certainly not an award winning audio track, it is definitely better than the majority of the indie DVD’s on the market today. New Line gets an “A” for effort on this release. Dialog is strong and clear; a must in a dialog-driven film such as this one. Also, some nice ambient effects show up in the surrounds, including birds, rustling leaves, passing cars and the like. These are the little things that help to make a film come to life.
However, the track does have a few shortcomings. I was disappointed with the sonic quality of much of the music. While the music came in clearly, it was not very dynamic. This made many of the musical interludes feel like the filler segments that they are, instead of engaging the viewer in the emotion of the moment. Also, while the sound field was wide across the front of house, almost all of the tones were anchored to a specific location, instead of moving with the action.
I was pleasantly surprised with the quality of the transfer on this disc. While not perfect, the picture is certainly above average. Colors look quite nice throughout much of the film, with lots of vibrant sets and props scattered around. Flesh tones are a bit red, but certainly not unpleasant or distracting. Especially interesting is the camera work itself, as some quite interesting angles pop up from time to time, which really helps to keep the feel of the film fresh throughout.
Unfortunately, lighting becomes an issue in some scenes, especially those shot on the office sets. Though the use of modern pin spots may have looked wonderful in person, they do not translate well to film, and many of these scenes appear dull and under-lit. There are also some instances of odd editing choices on occasion. Every 20 minutes or so, a short scene will pop up that really has little bearing on the story. This was sometimes confusing to me, but quite honestly, a casual viewer may not even notice.
This is a disc that is severely short on extras. There is a trailer included for the feature, as well as trailers for Mandy Moore’s How To Deal, and a couple of other similarly-minded films. I will say that they are all mastered in Dolby Digital 5.1, so at least that is something. There are also some DVD-ROM Web Links on the disc, but that’s it. This is a pretty thin offering as far as bonus features go.
Dog Park is an indie film, with all that such a label entails, both good and bad. Sure, there are some technical problems from time to time, and the acting is inconsistent, but as a trade off, the story is told in a unique and interesting way, and this is definitely not a film that one might find coming out of one of the major studios. Some of the risks pay off, and some don’t. But the risks were taken, and for that, I am glad.
Special Features List
- DVD-Rom Links