Must Love Dogs Gary David Goldberg

This is the sort of movie that gives romantic comedies a bad name. Look, we don't expect films like this to offer a razor-sharp analysis of the current political climate, or to push new boundaries in cinematography, or to instil in us a renewed resolve to work for social justice. No, all we need are cute leads, dressed fashionably, meeting and mating with sparkly dialogue and overcoming just enough setbacks so we will genuinely tear up when they finally do make it all work. This should ideally happen at Christmas. Despite the best efforts of an excellent cast (John Cusack, Diane Lane, Dermot Mulroney, Stockard Channing, Christopher Plummer, and Elizabeth Perkins), Must Love Dogs is utterly disappointing. Jake (Cusack) and Sarah (Lane) meet when they reluctantly try online dating services and after a few awkward dates realise that they are good for each other. There are a few complications (Mulroney), but eventually they figure it out. Really, there's not much of a story at all. Oddly enough, it's not even about dogs; with a title like this, you would think that loving dogs would be a cutesy complication (he loves 'em, she doesn't, or both pretend to and neither does) that would lead to hilarious "dating with dogs" misadventures. But no, they both like dogs fine; they just don't really love them. In fact, they're both pretty ambivalent about dogs — an ambivalence we can empathise with as we watch this lukewarm film. There is one good thing about this movie: Diane Lane is 40, John Cusack is not yet 39, and yet she does not play a cougar or Cusack's mother or some biological clock-watcher. They are just a pair of adults. If only the movie were as sophisticated or original as this one fluke of casting. Plus: a gag reel with only two outtakes, and some additional scenes. (Warner)