*Disclaimer, this whole article is one big spoiler alert. So if you see the title of a movie you haven’t seen, skip that paragraph. Or you could just suck it up princess, all these movies have been out for years.*
In preparation for Valentine’s Day movieMixology wanted me to review some romance movies. I’m a romantic at heart, so I chose Attack the Block and Cowboys and Aliens. Both sci-fi movies that featured aliens as villains. Primary differences being that one was a big-budget Hollywood action film and one was good.
The one thing I noticed while watching these movies (other than the sexual tension between Daniel Craig and Harrison Ford) was that they used dogs in two very different and noticeable ways. One to emphasize the story and punctuate a character, and one in a lazy ham-fisted way to get you to like a bland character and tug at your stupid heart-strings, because “O0o0oh look at da cute widdle puppy!”
This got me thinking about something I’d rather talk about than romance in movies: dogs in movies!
People love dogs. Especially crazy chicks and angry, sexless shut-ins. That’s why Hollywood uses dogs to manipulate audiences into liking their crappy movies. Show the main character with a dog and whether he’s a disturbed psychopath or heartbreaking bad boy, you’ll side with him because he’s won over man’s best friend.
This is the basic psychology behind how every Thursday I can steal a dog, go to an off-leash park, and faster than you can say “baby we don’t need a condom,” I’m rifling through her purse for cash while she’s in the bathroom investigating that new burning sensation.
Want me to elaborate? Gawd, you people are needy. Fine!
Laz’s movie dog laws:
- Have it behave like a dog! Everyone in your audience has either met or eaten a dog. (The Chinese movie market is massive!).
- Unless it’s the premise of the film, don’t give the dog super-human intelligence. If it starts doing complicated physics equations, I’ll throw the paste I’m eating at the screen.
- Don’t make the dog magically invincible. We saw you shoot the dog. Why is he juggling flaming chainsaw three scenes later? Take him to the vet.
- Don’t just have a dog in the movie to substitute something essential like good writing or character development. Have plot holes? Don’t just add a cutesy dog scene. Have a boring lead character? Try character development, an arc, depth or anything besides just giving him a canine sidekick. If your goal is to distract me from my natural inclination of smashing Macaulay Culkin’s face in, giving him a dog with $ spots isn’t going to be enough.
I maintain that what determines a quality movie is not IF they use a dog to manipulate the audience, but HOW they use a dog to manipulate the audience. I’m no doctor, but I’m guessing if the movie violates any of the above rules, they undoubtedly screwed the pooch on rest of the film too.
Right away in Cowboys and Aliens the dog violates laws 1&4 in the first scene. He watches Daniel Craig murder, loot, and sexually molest his owner’s still warm bodies. That dog then decides that Daniel Craig is his new BFF and follows him.
Later the dumb dog runs out and attacks the giant vicious killer alien off-screen, we hear a loud noise, the dog yelps, and it is implied that the alien finger-banged the dog to death. (The aliens finger-bang people to death in this movie BTW.) Surprise, surprise, the dog shows up again later violating law #3.
What motivated this article was the fact that Attack the Block had a nearly identical scene, but didn’t assume the audience was filled with drooling simpletons. The dumb dog runs out and attacks the giant vicious killer alien off-screen, we hear a loud noise, the dog yelps, but there is no doubt that the alien will later take a dump with a shredded collar in it. This dog is not heroically coming back in another scene to tug at our heart strings and pi$$ on logic. No, this story-logical dog murder punctuates the danger our characters face, and shows more insight into the young lad’s heroic nature as he screams bloody vengeance for his furry friend and charges to the rescue of his trapped comrade.
Two movies. Same scene. Proper dog use in the good one. Pandering, lazy dog use in the bad one. End of article. Case Closed. Happy Valentine’s Day!
…More examples? Jesus, are we dating now? Fine, but I warn you, this will be a Will Smith heavy list.
Men in Black: Who saw this movie when it came out and didn’t like it? Maybe people who are afraid of giant bugs? Phobia would have to be the only reason, right? I’m not judging, I’m terrified of British children. The Harry Potter series is one giant nightmare for me! Anyway, comment below if you disliked it for any other reason, so we can cut you open and study you for science.
Use of Dog: The dog is used in a clever don’t judge a book by its cover joke, and then sparingly for a hilarious animal cruelty visual gag. Plus he’s an alien, so this isn’t a violation of rules 1 or 2.
Verdict: Great movie. Unless you’re afraid of giant CGI bugs.
Honey, I Shrunk the Kids: Lasers blow stuff up kids, it’s just science. This movie taught our young minds teamwork, friendship, sexual tension, and how lawnmowers and scorpions can be fun playtime toys. All in a way that only late 80’s Disney could, with hilarious child endangerment.
Use of Dog: We almost get a violation of law #2. He sniffed out the kids, protected them, recognized their commands, and gave them a ride. Though none of it really stretches belief. The dog would recognize the kids by scent and voice. When the dog heard the dorky kid scream in terror that Bob Mackenzie was going to eat him (in one of the shameless product whorings), the dog reacted in an appropriately dog-like manner by biting a Canadian midget.
Verdict: Awesome movie, duh.
Snatch: Guy Ritchie in top form before Madonna scrambled his brain.
Use of Dog: Almost a violation of law #3, but it works because dogs are fast and hard to shoot. Believe me! The dog swallows the MacGuffin and becomes a huge pain in the ass for most of the characters. They don’t make it cutesy or eye-rolling, and in the end the dog ties all the stories together and paints Jason Statham like one of his French girls.
Verdict: You know you loved this movie. Don’t even front dawg!
Lethal Weapon: Riggs acts like a bigger douche for the first half of the movie than Mel Gibson does in real life couple’s therapy. But women love him so the panties drop every time that mullet graces the screen.
Use of Dog: Not a violation of rule #4 because this movie set a sexy Australian precedent on how to use a dog properly to emphasize an already deep character like Riggs. Used ever so slightly to show that there was something underneath this religious zealot suicidal loose-cannon that could be saved.
Verdict: Unless it’s Die Hard, 80’s cop movies don’t get much better than this.
Independence Day: You know why this is a beloved turd. Beloved because it was our first big dose of that Will Smith charm, groundbreaking Mc’splosion effects kicking off the Roland Emmerich disaster porn era, and post Jurassic Park Jeff Goldblum doing his best Jeff Goldblum impression. Turd because of the poor writing, logical gaps, poor writing, ridiculous coincidences, poor writing, and Judd Hirsch hamming up Jewish stereotypes so badly it would make Joseph Goebbels wince. And poor writing.
Dog law violations: Violates rules 1, 3&4. Stupid dog outruns stupid blue-screen fireball of death, to get the stupid audience to cheer at a stupid movie. I think the dog found the first lady’s crashed helicopter too? It was something dumb like that.
Verdict: Terrible movie… That I will still watch every time it’s on TV.
The Mask: Jim Carrey plays a lunatic stalker, thief and sex offender who anally rapes two mechanics. But give him an adorable dog that he gets into hijinks with, and suddenly he’s a lovable man-child.
Dog law violations: “Jim Carrey is dreaming about making out with a woman only to wake up engaging in bestiality? That’s so wacky lolz!” Gag. There’s other examples of slapstick nonsense like the dog outwitting the bad guys, and in total I think this movie manages to violate all 4 rules. Still, props to the dog on being one of the better actors in the movie.
Verdict: You would hate this movie if it didn’t have Jim Carrey at the height of his fame and Cameron Diaz in a push-up bra to taint your gooey adolescent memory. Admit it, crappy movie.
Men in Black II: Do I need to explain why this movie is awful? If you’ve seen it, you know. If you haven’t, I wouldn’t recommend watching it unless you’re trying to induce a stroke for medical reasons.
Dog law violations: “People loved the wise-crackin’ pug from the first one. Give him a little suit and awkwardly shoe-horn him into the sequel! Story? Bwahaha good one, pass the blow!” The entire movie is a violation of rule #4.
Verdict: Terrible movie. Maybe Will Smith’s worst. But I haven’t seen After Earth. Did that movie have space dogs?
The Will Smith Wild Card:
I am Legend: It’s a bit of a toss-up. I know some really smart people who hate this movie, and some really dumb people who love this movie. The dog does a few clichéd dog things, but ultimately this dog’s actions and subsequent death, have a profound character and story impact that competently transitions our hero to the all is lost moment went he tries to pull a Ted Kennedy.
Use of Dog: You care more about this dog than any of the human characters. When she dies you want to curl into a ball against Christina Hendricks’s bosom and cry yourself to sleep.
Verdict: Pretty forgettable. I was disappointed, but can’t remember if I hated it or not. I can’t think of any blatant violations. Definitely didn’t violate rule #4 because Will Smith and the dog had a good story-based relationship. It did have some good intense scenes, but if people remember anything it’s the bizarre choice to make the zombies bad-CGI albinos and a terrible ending.
I’m sure you can think of other examples dear reader. Throw you favorite ones in the comments section below and back up my loosely strung-together, cough-meds and Red Stripe induced theory!
Hell, even the last screenplay I wrote had a cute little dog in it. I used it to subtly emasculate a character that put on an air of false bravado. Now I know what you’re thinking, but I used it brilliantly to accentuate situational humor…
It was totally used in a story-necessary way…
It worked for the character…
Happy Valentine’s Day or whatever!