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"Dog Days," an omnibus comedy about the unique ability of dogs to connect us to others and ourselves, is the kind of mildly amusing, pandering film that shows up in movie theaters when nothing else notable is playing. Yet it still achieves some moments of genuine sweetness. It's a film about dogs, after all.

Director Ken Marino works from a script that's essentially mashed together bits of stories that wouldn't sustain a whole film on their own. There's the uptight morning news anchor, Elizabeth (Nina Dobrev), who warms to her new co-host, Jimmy (Tone Bell), when their pups bond. There's the winsome barista, Tara (Vanessa Hudgens), caught in a love triangle with a hunky vet, Mike (Michael Cassidy), and an altruistic but nerdy dog rescue center owner, Garrett (Jon Bass). A stoner musician, Dax (Adam Pally), learns about responsibility when his sister (Jessica St. Clair) needs him to watch her pooch while she mothers her newborn twins.

In perhaps the most heartwarming subplot, Tyler (Finn Wolfhard) befriends a lonely older man (Ron Cephas Jones) who has lost his beloved pug, Mabel. The wayward pup ends up with the Chapman family (Eva Longoria and Rob Corddry), who are learning to live and love together with the new addition of adopted daughter Amelia (Elizabeth Phoenix Caro), and Mabel proves the necessary glue.

Things get off to a rocky start, with some painfully outdated gender-based jokes. In fact, it opens on the repeated misgendering of dog therapist Danielle (Tig Notaro), which simply doesn't land.

The film rights itself only when it starts getting seriously weird, and Marino's alt-comedy roots start to shine through. David Wain appears as a laconic clown, while John Gemberling gets his moment, belting out an unwarranted but heartfelt "Amazing Grace." Veteran comedians like Pally, St. Clair and even Bass get some great ad-libs and one-liners, which add texture to the otherwise bland and placid surface.


Dog Days

★★ out of 4 stars

Rating: PG for rude and suggestive content and for language.