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Weiner-Dog, written and directed by Todd Solondz, is the type of comedy that will prove to be extremely divisive. You will either really like it’s bizarre brashness, or you will find it at absolutely impossible to watch. I am in the latter category.
The titular dog is almost a non-entity in the film. Out of the four disparate stories that Weiner-Dog is comprised of, only the first, centered on a young boy (Keaton Nigel Cooke) and his parents trying to come to terms with owning a pet, really involves the dog in any meaningful way. The second story, that of a woman named Dawn (Greta Gerwig) going on a roadtrip with a man named Brandon (Kieran Culkin), is only loosely connected to the first and the dog could have easily been written out. As for the third and fourth, they have no connection with anything else in the movie and the dog is only there because he is the pet of one of the characters. There’s no overarching plot or any sense of narrative cohesion.
It’s easy to tell right away what kind of movie you are getting into, so if you do not find yourself laughing early on, do not expect to crack so much as a smile for rest of it.
The line delivery and the editing, which relies heavily on long takes and alternating close-ups, slows the movie down to a crawl, which deflates any comedic potential and kills the pacing. At one point in the second story, Dawn rescues the Weiner-Dog from being put to sleep and decides to care of her.
There’s a visual gag that basically amounts to Dawn literally treating the dog like a baby, wrapping her in a blanket, feeding her milk from a bottle and humming a lullaby to her. Weiner-Dog holds on that shot long enough for it to stop being funny and then holds for an extra ten seconds after that. Rinse and repeat.
The writing is not big on laughs, mainly because it too often just hits the same beats. The joke of the first story is that the parents say things to their kid that parents are not supposed to say to children, like discussing rape or telling them non-nonchalantly that God does not exist. It’s shocking at first, but when almost all of the humor comes from that (apart from a very unnecessarily long dog diarrhea joke, complete with a slow pan over a streak of poo on the street set to soft piano music that goes on for at least a minute), the effect quickly wears off. The repetitive writing combined with the slow pace make for a comedy that makes every effort to smother any and all possibility for laughter.
Contemporary stereotypes of film students and artists, among others, are often simply present. Sometimes they are clearly exaggerated for comedic effect, even if that does not work because the movie is so slow that nothing is ever funny, while other times they are carbon copies of the stereotypes that do nothing but perpetuate the conventions of said stereotype.
The most interesting thing that happens in Weiner-Dog is when Dave Schmerz (Danny De Vito) passes by a cinema while he’s walking on the street. The marquee said they were showing Mad Max: Fury Road, and for a brief moment I imagined myself watching that and it felt really good. That was the only joy Weiner-Dog gave me – a memory of a far superior movie.
Simply put, Weiner-Dog is one of the worst and most unfunny movies ever made. Your mileage may vary.