‘Gone Doggy Gone:’ Advance Film Review

Despite the title clearly aping that of Affleck’s thriller about a missing child, Gone Doggy Gone is not simply a parody of the aforementioned work. Instead, it examines LA dog culture through a loving, yet critical, lens while simultaneously weaving a tale of flawed individuals unknowingly searching for healing. It’s not always a perfect journey, and people who have never wholeheartedly loved a pet may find the characters pitiable rather than relatable, but it’s a satisfyingly heartwarming ride where the doggy star manages to steal her scenes, yet still function beautifully as a plot device. LA couple Elliott and Abby Harmon appear to have everything they could want: matching cars; a cute house perfect for hosting parties; and high powered jobs. Their only real quirk is their obsessive care of their Yorkie Laila who is pampered like a human infant and boasts more stylish clothing than a celebrity baby. Jill, the Harmon’s dog walker/baby sitter, seems just as nutty for the tiny canine, happily referring to Laila as her BFF and using the tiny dog as a substitute for her lack of fulfilling human relationships. When the beloved canine disappears while in Jill’s care, the Harmons fly into a frenzy to get their “baby” back, regardless of the toll it may take on their ties to each other and everyone around them.

Gone Doggy Gone set the stage for Abby’s and Elliott’s characters from their first appearance, a scene where the couple appeared to be communicating but was actually conducting business on Bluetooth headsets. While it’s unclear whether the relationship deteriorated before or after Laila’s addition to the household, I realized quickly that the Yorkie both filled a role for her owners and pushed them further apart emotionally. While many couples struggle to maintain intimacy in the first year after having a child (It’s just logistics due to lack of sleep and caring for an extremely dependent being.), Laila presented a much bigger stumbling block, since she was a perpetual infant that Abby used to push her husband away. After the dog disappeared, both Harmons had to learn to communicate with each other again and to reconnect. There were plenty of missteps, but, by the end of the film, I was satisfied that the pair had rediscovered each other and what they truly wanted in life. While I wanted to smack both of them at the beginning of the movie for their ridiculous fawning of the their dog, by the final minutes they figured out how to spoil Laila without making her a baby substitute, something that wasn’t healthy for either the humans or the dog. Don’t be fooled that they’ve completely changed, though! The last few minutes show that one road trip cannot fix all personality flaws!

I found Jill slightly more sympathetic than the Harmons at first, because she accepted that Laila was a dog (She constantly removed the cute, yet impractical, outfits Laila was stuffed into by Abby.), but she became more frustrating as the movie continued. The young woman had as big a hole in her life as the Harmons, and, in her own way, Jill used Laila to fill her emotional void just like the owners; however, by the end of the film, I sympathized with the young woman’s reasons for her anxious grabs at affection and was genuinely pleased that she got a sort of happy ending.

I appreciated that the other characters in the film, like Dan and Kat, also experienced growth and revelations throughout the ninety-minute run time. Like the main cast, they were searching for something to make their lives complete, and while things might not be ideal by the closing credits, the search for Laila gave them a new lease on life and a plan for a better future.

I can’t talk much about the full plot of Gone Doggy Gone without giving the best parts away, but viewers should know that it’s not really about thrilling action, but a character piece. There are some great moments that parody thrillers about lost children, such as a search through the local park and a nightmare parodying the infamous “It puts the lotion in the basket” scene from The Silence of the Lambs, but the story quickly transitions to a road trip story about finding yourself again. Also, while the movie does poke fun at the extremes of LA's (and, frankly, many big cities') dog culture, it’s not truly the focus of the story. Abby’s and Elliott’s obsession with Laila is simply a catalyst for more.

I watched the majority of Gone Doggy Gone on my iPhone 4, so, unfortunately, I may have missed any subtleties in the shots or composition due to the small screen. The opening scenes with Jill wistfully watching children with their parents or caretakers at the park were beautifully heart wrenching, though, and nothing jumped out at me as feeling out of place or poorly filmed.

Overall, Gone Doggy Gone is an excellent film to watch when you’re in the mood for flawed protagonists, cute pets, and slow, but steady, character growth. It’s not outrageously funny, pulse-poundingly intense, or sappily romantic, but it’s a slightly twisted type of reality, which can sometimes be more satisfying than escapism. If you’ve ever had a deep connection to a pet or been searching for something to make your life complete, I think that Gone Doggy Gone will resonate. Hopefully, it will be available for wider release soon.


4.5 Arguments about Dog Sweaters out of 5

Last modified on Monday, 31 December 2018 19:33

Jodi Scaife, Fanbase Press Social Media Strategist

Mid-30s geek type with a houseful of pets, books, DVDs, CDs, and manga

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