The tagline for "The Dog Problem" on the DVD cover is "Eat. Sleep. Therapy. Repeat." Right away, I should have known a slogan about repetition would be a bad sign. Sure enough, the movie is indeed a repetitive journey that continually goes around and round in circles before an unsatisfying and abrupt end.
The story centers on Solo (Giovanni Ribisi) who is not related to Han or Mario Van Peeble's title character. Solo is a broke author who goes to therapy to try and get his life back on track. When the therapist mentions Solo should get a pet to keep him company, he decides to purchase a dog. At first, the dog brings nothing but trouble, but Solo slowly realizes the dog is helping his life as he meets a woman at a dog park, among other fateful occurrences.
"The Dog Problem" is in fact loaded with problems. First and foremost, the script is padded with filler that does nothing more than drag out scenes and prevent the story from moving forward. For instance, in the final 15 minutes, there is a roughly 5 minute music montage of the dog struts through the streets of L.A like Travolta in "Saturday Night fever." The filler proves that the story barely lends itself to filling out a short film, let alone a feature length film.
The script also repeats itself over and over. We know Solo's character is going through a crisis, we don't need to hear him tell ever single person he meets. Again, it falls into needless filler. The script Caan wrote also curiously abandons a subplot about a loan shark who lent Solo money. Instead of taking the subplot to a new level or milking it for comedic purposes, it peters out which (in the end) makes the subplot seem insignificant and out of place.
The hip cast do the best they can with their roles. An uncredited Don Cheadle as the therapist and Mena Suvari as a rich Paris Hilton-like woman are the stand outs here. Giovanni Ribisi, who has been a reliable supporting actor in films like "Sky Captain And The World Of Tomorrow" and "Saving Private Ryan," falters as he has never been leading man material. He simply can't carry the film, but to be fair, the script is partially to blame. As for Scott Caan, he is a talented actor who makes a good member of the Ocean's gang, but he hasn't proven his writing/directing abilities yet. Instead of shamelessly glorifying himself by having a starring role, Caan should spend more time focusing on his other duties. Caan needs to tighten and strengthen his skills. He should be less concerned with studying French comedies or even Woody Allen works, and develop a fresh perspective that will stand out in the crowded indie film scene. Caan's potential is evident during his long shots and direction of actors and actresses, but there is much room for growth.
The film is presented in 16:9 Anamorphic full frame (1.78:1). It's not in full screen, but it's close. I'm happy to report the print is clear and glitch free.
The 5.1 Dolby Digital Surround Sound is perfectly acceptable for a talky indie feature. I didn't detect any audio inconsistencies. A 2.0 Dolby Digital track is on the disk as well.
* A trailer gallery for "A New Wave," "A Wendell Baker Story," "Live Free Or Die," "Farce Of The Penguins," and "Life Of the Party."
* A trailer for "The Dog Problem."
* English and Spanish subtitles.
* An audio commentary by Giovanni Ribisi and Scott Caan. If you happen to rent this film, I strongly suggest listening to the commentary track instead of watching the movie. Not only is the banter between Ribisi and Caan amusing, but they have more chemistry than any characters in the film. The two discuss everything from Caan's chest hair to Godard inspiring the tone and shots of the movie. A few interesting facts: Steve Jones of The Sex Pistols provided the voice of the radio DJ and Ribisi and Caan did some cinematography themselves. Only a few spots of silence weaken the track.
"The Dog problem" is at best an amateurish film. With more time and more films under his belt, Scott Caan can become a respectable indie filmmaker.
Film and television enthusiast Nick Lyons recently had his first book published titled "Attack of the Sci-Fi Trivia." It is available on Amazon.com.