Film Fare...with Mark Moorehead
‘Must Love Dogs’

General Audiences: C+

Chick flick light with a happy ending designed to please most women and men smart enough to recognize an opportunity to score points with the women in their life. No surprises, nudity, language or gratuitous sex.

Family Audiences: C

Adult dating themes guaranteed to bore children to death. PG-13 for sexual content that involves only implied sex and a brief scene inside a strip club, absent any nudity.


Internet dating service perfectmatch.com takes center stage in a film about a recently divorced 40-something woman looking for a man to save her from the tragic state of being single. One of the underlying themes in Must Love Dogs is that a single person is perpetually unhappy and married people are happy. And, a single person must utilize all the resources and available time to enter or return to the state of marital bliss as quickly and painlessly as possible.

Must Love Dogs lays out all the steps you’ll need: First, join as many Internet dating services as possible to guarantee a steady pool from which to troll prospective soulmates. Second, work the system. This means essentially lying about who you are and what you look like when posting your personality resume.

Sarah Nolan (Diane Lane) is a preschool teacher who has been divorced for about eight months. Her sister Carol (Elizabeth Perkins) enrolls her in perfectmatch.com by posting the description “Voluptuous, sensuous, alluring and fun. DWF seeks special man to share starlit nights. Must love dogs.” The requisite accompanying photo: A shot of Sarah during her high school cheerleading days.

Surprisingly, Sarah has no objections to the profile and proceeds to date a string of losers until she meets the sensitive and caring Jake Anderson (John Cusack). Jake makes small wooden boats for a living. Unfortunately, no one wants to buy one. This doesn’t dissuade Sarah from dating him, because she likes him for his off-beat remarks and ability to listen.

At the same time, she also yearns for hunky Bobby Connor (Dermot Mulroney), a recently divorced man with a son who attends the preschool where Sarah works. Bobby’s a real catch. He works in construction part time and lives in a mobile home park. And, he’s a born romantic with lines like, “There’s a mutual attraction going on between us.” What woman could resist a man like that?

Torn between semi-employed trailer trash and an unsuccessful wood carver, Sarah eventually leans toward the man who lives in a permanent building.

Jake and Sarah are both really nice people, and you know they’re going to end up together from the moment they meet. Unfortunately for the audience, however, there’s no electricity between the two. They seem more like sister and brother than amorous lovers. It’s as if Sarah settled for less than she wanted or deserves, just so she won’t be alone at the supermarket meat counter asking only for one chicken leg instead of the whole fryer.

If you love sentimental films like An Affair To Remember or romantic comedies like When Harry Met Sally, you may be disappointed. Viewers will automatically compare a film like Must Love Dogs to those involving truly romantic couples with the right chemistry, like Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks in Sleepless in Seattle. Sadly, Lane and Cusack fail to generate the requisite sexual tension and yearning of people who really are in love.

Perhaps the reason so many second marriages fail is that recently split couples rush into new relationships and end up settling for second best. That’s one of the reasons I preferred Diane Lane in Under the Tuscan Sun, the story of an intelligent, freshly divorced woman who recognized her life could be fulfilling without a man in tow.

In Must Love Dogs, it turns out, the relationship Sarah really needs has been staring her in the face all along: her brother’s dog, a larger-than-life Newfoundland whose love is unconditional. Dogs are loyal, protective and cheaper to maintain than a spouse.

Sarah should have been torn between the Newfoundland and Jake. Now that would make a great romantic comedy.

Regular Wrangler News columnist Mark Moorehead lives in Pecan Grove Estates.