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Cutesy ‘Dog Days’ unleashes the melodrama to coax laughs, tears

Nina Dobrev, who plays a morning TV host, is among the human stars of the canine rom-com "Dog Days." | LD ENTERTAINMENT

“Dog Days” isn’t so much a movie as an emotional delivery system, meant to make you laugh a little, cry a little and say, “Awww” about 10,000 times.

On that front, it’s a complete success. As an actual film, well, not so much.

Director Ken Marino’s movie is an ensemble piece, a string of L.A. stories loosely tied together by dogs. As these things go, it’s more pleasant than some — they wait until almost the end of the film to kill a dog off for maximum emotional impact, for instance, and that’s herculean restraint in this genre. That they limit the story to one leg-humping gag makes it practically minimalism.

But screenwriters Elissa Matsueda and Erica Oyama also toss just about every bit of melodrama into the mix they can find. There’s birth (of twins), death, adoption, family issues, a health crisis, a lost dog, love lost and found, and at one point a tortoise eats a turtle. Or maybe it was the other way around.

Ron Cephas Jones (left) and Finn Wolfhard in “Dog Days.” | LD ENTERTAINMENT
Ron Cephas Jones (left) and Finn Wolfhard in “Dog Days.” | LD ENTERTAINMENT

When I say the plot strands are loosely tied together, here’s an example: A retired professor (Ron Cephas Jones) loses his pug after his pizza guy, Tyler (Finn Wolfhard), distracts him. This leads to some kind of medical emergency for the professor — it seems like a mild heart attack, but it’s never specified, because in this film the important thing is the dog running off, not his malady — and soon the professor and the kid bond over looking for the dog.

Tyler is struggling with reading “The Odyssey,” so the professor tutors him. Meanwhile Tyler’s English teacher, (Rob Corddry) and his wife (Eva Longoria) adopt a daughter, but she doesn’t warm to them. Until, of course, a lost pug wanders into their lives. Despite plastering all of Los Angeles with fliers, it takes a while for the involved parties to figure out that the dog belongs to the professor, but by that time the girl has bonded with her new pet, and so forth and so on and on and on.

Eva Longoria, Elizabeth Caro and Rob Corddry in “Dog Days.” | LD ENTERTAINMENT
Eva Longoria, Elizabeth Caro and Rob Corddry in “Dog Days.” | LD ENTERTAINMENT

There’s a morning-show host (Nina Dobrev) who hates, but of course not really, the co-host foisted upon her show (Tone Bell); their dogs get along. There’s a coffee-shop employee (Vanessa Hudgens) obsessed over by a sweet guy (Jon Bass) who has started a dog-rescue operation, but she pines for the hot vet (Ryan Hansen) who often comes in for coffee.

There are some other things going on, as well, but you get the picture. It’s all pretty by-the-book romantic-comedy stuff, with dogs thrown in for additional adorableness.

Except for one inspired string of oddness. Seemingly apropos of nothing, Thomas Lennon, Tig Notaro and Phoebe Neidhardt, playing an exhausted husband of newborns, a dog therapist and a loony weather forecaster, offer occasional bizarre hilarity. They all seem to have wandered in from a different movie.

A better movie. I’d rather watch that one instead.

‘Dog Days’


LD Entertainment presents a film directed by Ken Marino and written by Elissa Matsueda and Erica Oyama. Rated PG (for rude and suggestive content, and for language). Running time: 112 minutes. Opens Wednesday at local theaters.