PG | 1h 41min | Drama
Review - Matt Mungle
*In theaters July 8th 2016*
Synopsis:Sara Gold is a rising star at the United Animal Protection Agency (UAPA), a major animal rights organization that conducts animal rescues and lobbies for better animal welfare laws. Handpicked for a major assignment, Sara goes undercover as a college intern to infiltrate a suspected "puppy mill" run by the enigmatic Daniel Holloway.
Review: THE DOG LOVER is an intriguing story that manages to keep the intensity and drama elevated without ever losing its family friendly nature. Granted it has the feel and movement of a film best suited for TV or on-demand rental but that in no way takes away from the positive moments.
Sara (Allison Paige) is an educated journalist squandering (if you listen to her parents) her degree by working for nearly nothing at an animal rights organization. She loves what she does and is driven by her concern for the welfare of her four legged friends. Her latest assignment is to go undercover at a well known dog breeder to try and gather anything that would expose and help shut them down. While there she encounters something quite different and must decide which side is right.
Dogs are always good fodder for an emotional drama. Director Alex Ranarivelo uses the backdrop of this story to his advantage. The viewer is instantly engaged regardless of the forced dialogue of the characters. It is not that anyone is horrible in their craft but you can also tell they are all acting. Paige is convincing enough and it could be the fault lies mainly in the script. The standout performance often comes from the very familiar James Remar as the mill owner, Daniel Holloway. He has a brooding intensity that fits his role perfectly. You respect Daniel's authority and can understand his perspective; even if you don't like him. Mrs. Holloway is played by the lovable Lea Thompson who we always enjoy seeing.
The story is written in a way that you get a lot of different dynamics. It moves from the Animal Rights headquarters to the Puppy Mill to eventually the courtroom. With each transition the level of anxiety rises. Just as it should. You want justice served and thankfully it is not an easy payoff. It holds you until the very end. Sara is a tough customer who does not back down from a fight. This tenacity also helps her character to rise above the mediocre script. She joins forces with Daniel's disenchanted son Will (Jayson Blair) in her search for the truth. Their relationship takes some cliche back roads but it is not a terrible misdirection. Just unnecessary.
THE DOG LOVER is rated PG for thematic elements, brief disturbing images and some language. It is safe and interesting for older family members, 10 and up. There are a few very brief moments of animal peril but this is handled correctly. I give it 3 out of 5 quarantine kennels. The script is the biggest downfall but luckily the meat of the story is not completely lost.