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TH!INKFilm presents

The Dog Problem (2006)

"Did you ever consider getting a pet, Solo?"- Dr. Nourmand (Don Cheadle)

Stars: Giovanni Ribisi, Lynn Collins, Scott Caan, Jimmy the Dog
Other Stars: Don Cheadle, Kevin Corrigan, Mena Suvari, Sarah Shahi
Director: Scott Caan

MPAA Rating: R for language, some sexual content, nudity
Run Time: 01h:28m:08s
Release Date: 2007-08-07
Genre: comedy

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer


DVD Review

Solo (Giovanni Ribisi) is going through a lengthy depression and has dropped scores of money with his psychiatrist Dr. Nourmand (Don Cheadle). These countless sessions have accomplished little, so in desperation the doctor recommends that he buy a pet. This seems like an obvious suggestion that most people would have already considered, but this is not your typical guy. A writer who lost his nerve after gaining success, Solo lives neurotically, owes money to a small-time gangster, and needs a jolt to regain his way. Buying a dog could make a difference, but it appears to be another in a long line of false steps for the once-promising author.

Scott Caan's The Dog Problem conveys the light story of Solo's resurgence and his encounters with some goofy figures along the way. This type of film succeeds or fails based on the quality of its supporting players, and they are only a mixed bag. The worst offender is Mena Suvari, who plays a bored rich girl that grinds the story to a halt with each appearance. Only slightly better is Kevin Corrigan, who plays a gangster caricature that resembles far too many indie figures. The best supporting role actually goes to Jimmy the Dog (Year of the Dog), who plays the cute little pet that charms everyone he meets. His silly looks are some of the best shots in the movie, and the key sequence of his journey through Los Angeles is enjoyable. Caan also appears as Solo's best friend Casper, and his constant wooing of the ladies grows tiresome. There are a few good moments for him, particularly one involving an inexplicable photo shoot. But there's something missing from his one-note character that would have raised my enjoyment.

It's difficult to be too critical of this picture because it doesn't aspire to be more than a cute, personal story. I don't mean that as a criticism, as it's generally refreshing to have a respite from the legions of bombastic, huge-budget films. The issue here is the adherence to tried-and-true formulas. The attractive Lynn Collins (The Merchant of Venice) does a nice job as Solo's love interest, who he meets by chance at a dog park. However, Caan takes the easy route and writes her as a stripper. This leads to a cringe-inducing scene where she assaults Solo with a free lap dance at the club before realizing it's him. This part of the movie seems designed to show some exotic dancers and spice up the picture. While I'm rarely one to discourage filmmakers from shooting attractive dancers, it still feels out of place here. Collins and Ribisi have a pleasant chemistry together, and their encounter at the club feels like it should be in a different movie.

The Dog Problem provides a collection of entertaining scenes, but struggles to maintain a consistent pace throughout its brief running time. Ribisi can play this type of neurotic part in his sleep, which makes him easy to watch but doesnít really offer a thrilling experience. I am interested to see more of Collins, who brings a fresh presence to a fairly tired story. A minor saving grace is the focus on the positive effects of having a pet, which I agree with completely. Even when they dirty up the house or cause other issues, dogs and cats do help to provide the peace of mind that Solo achieves. Itís unfortunate to see this point made within some tired storylines. Certain characters and scenes are easily forgettable, but there are enough worthwhile moments to keep it from becoming too tedious.

Rating for Style: B-
Rating for Substance: C+


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.78:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: This straight-to-DVD release includes a 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer that presents the events acceptably. There are some impressive shots of Los Angeles, particularly during several montages highlighting some notable local sights. However, this transfer lacks the sharp clarity found on the best releases. There's nothing distracting, but the overall presentation falls short of being memorable.

Image Transfer Grade: B

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishyes
Dolby Digital

Audio Transfer Review: The Dog Problem includes some enjoyable sequences driven by music, particularly when the dog takes the long walk through Los Angeles. These are some of the better scenes and maintain a casual feel that's missing from much of the picture. This disc includes a 5.1-channel Dolby Digital transfer that presents the audio in solid fashion. The sound could be stronger, though, and does contain a few murky sections. There's also a 2.0-channel option for viewers with simpler home-theater presentations.

Audio Transfer Grade:

Disc Extras

Animated menu with music
Scene Access with 16 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, Spanish with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
5 Other Trailer(s) featuring The Wendell Baker Story, A New Wave, Live Free or Die, Farce of the Penguins, Live Free or Die
1 Feature/Episode commentary by Scott Caan and Giovanni Ribisi
Packaging: unknown keepcase
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extras Review: The only significant extra is a feature-length commentary from Scott Caan and Giovanni Ribisi, whose friendship gives them a relaxed chemistry. Caan spends a bit too much time summarizing the plot, but both speakers do provide some good information. They actually do better when talking generally about the production and avoiding a scene-specific discussion. The disc also includes the theatrical trailer, which gives away too much plot and doesn't make the story look very attractive. We also have five pre-menu trailers for other indie films with a similar tone.

Extras Grade: C

Final Comments

Scott Caan has directed two films, and it's refreshing to see him avoiding obvious genres like action films or typically "dark" indie territory. The Dog Problem shows promise and includes some cute moments, but it never moves beyond offering mild entertainment. While building a successful acting career, Caan will hopefully continue to grow as a filmmaker. He seems focused on making original films, which should pay greater dividends in the future.

Dan Heaton 2007-10-19