"Must Love Dogs" (IMDb listing), starring Diane Lane and John Cusack, should really be called "Must Love Romantic Comedies." When Sarah (Lane) gets a divorce, her large and supportive family is more than happy to set her up with several prospects for a potential re-marriage. After a couple of misses, Sarah's sister Carol decides that the best solution is online dating. After going out with a lot of duds, she meets Jake (Cusack), a guy who is also recently divorced. The two find a connection, but a miscommunication threatens their budding relationship and calls into question what it is exactly that makes a good partner for life.
Directed by Gary David Goldberg, "Must Love Dogs" is a romantic comedy with a lot of power players. Besides Lane and Cusack, you have Elizabeth Perkins, Dermot Mulroney, Christopher Plummer and Stockard Channing. With a cast this strong, it is natural to expect great things, but the script disappoints. The story is choppy starting off and although the second half is more fluent than the first, the progression of the film makes it harder to get wrapped up in the sentimentality that the film tries to capitalize on.
With the film's rapid pace at the beginning and it's attempt to demonstrate just how many frogs you have to kiss, Lane and Cusack don't get as much screen time together as they should. The pair has good chemistry, but they need much more time to show it than the film allows. Individually, Lane is enjoyable in this role and brings a stable side to her search for Mr. Right, unlike most female heroines in this genre. Cusack is excellent and deserves more character development in this film. He manages in very minor amounts of dialogue to be sensitive and endearing and engage viewers enough to lean in his favor from his first introduction.
With online dating becoming more and more popular, "Must Love Dogs" follows suit with many other recent films that show the trials and tribulations of dating with the help of technology. Showing that it is more up to speed with recent trends, this film doesn't extend much discussion to the idea of going online for dating pursuits. Instead, it is a natural solution and the plot focuses more on what the results are from Sarah's online post rather than the previously taboo implications of meeting someone online. The interesting parallel that is drawn in the film is clear: in person or online, you can't always tell who the slime ball is going to be.
Filmfodder Grade: C-