• by Wes Singleton

Review: Weiner-Dog, C

Rated R, 93 minutes

My Mom has two dachshunds and I have several friends who are owners too, who might find the weird, offbeat new dramedy "Wiener-Dog" appealing. Yes, it's about a lovable dachshund, but it's not a family movie and if you're a pet owner - especially a doxie owner - you might want to leave with about 5 minutes left (read about it elsewhere as I won't give any spoilers). "Weiner-Dog" is a dark, subversive yet uneven dramedy from acclaimed filmmaker Todd Solondz, the director behind such cult independent hits as "Welcome to the Dollhouse" and "Happiness." Solondz has an offputting, banal way of perfectly capturing the underbelly of the American middle class and offers a few touching moments in the process even if you still can't help wondering how darn weird it all is. A cute dachshund puppy finds itself shuffled from one oddball owner to the next, including an upscale couple (Tracy Letts, Julie Delpy) with a sick boy (Keaton Nigel Cooke), a veterinary nurse (Greta Gerwig) named Dawn and her friend Brandon (Kieran Culkin), a failed college film professor and screenwriter (Danny DeVito) and a bitter old woman (Ellen Burstyn). "Weiner-Dog" is a dark, modestly entertaining dramedy with four vignettes connected by the lovable, normal dachshund, who tries to make the lives of the people she lives with better. Admittedly, if you're familiar with Solondz's work, it's not for everyone, given his penchant for weirdness and banal, silence-inducing dialogue that may have you scratching your head, particularly the weak, baffling opening chapter not to mention that Solondz's view of middle Americana seems to be a depressing, almost pensive one. The best vignettes include the second story with Gerwig, who memorably plays the adult version of Dawn Weiner from Solondz's initial work "Welcome to the Dollhouse" and the final one with Burstyn, who gives the movie's most touching performance as a bitter old woman who names the dog Cancer (not exactly a great, or funny, cancer reference). Solondz never fully explains how the dog finds its connection to its owners especially in the later chapters, with its most controversial aspect its violently shocking and somewhat upsetting ending, but probably not that all that surprising to Solondz's fan base, who realize that life keeps going on regardless. "Weiner-Dog" is cute at first glance, but there's always something deeper underneath the surface, and Solondz can't seem to figure out what that is.

#weinerdog #toddsolondz