Whole swathes of Wiener-Dog have nothing to do with the titular pooch who is ultimately only a contrived and poorly executed device for hanging four grotesque stories together.
The first segment, which makes up most of the trailer, has the aesthetic of a DFS or John Lewis sofa ad. Paradoxically this sanitised world glorifies dog diarrhoea with a nauseatingly drawn-out tracking shot in the one plotline that does actually revolve around Wiener-Dog. Julie Delpy is an exaggerated, blunter and nastier version of the only role she ever plays (see Richard Linklater’s Before trilogy, and 2 Days in Paris), while her young son Remi is portrayed as a rather creepy and solemn child by Keaton Nigel Cooke. His mannered precocious performance style would be more at home in a psychological horror, and actually bears a striking resemblance to Tom Sweet’s chillingly disengaged turn in The Childhood of a Leader. Some potentially very interesting back story is hinted at but never satisfyingly interrogated.
It may be satire, but Wiener-Dog’s racism is still abhorrent, and it’s just as irresponsible as Delpy’s character’s parenting. Director Todd Solondz’s flippant attitude under serves the profoundly sad characters he’s written, and falls short of showing the due respect to high-quality performances given by Danny DeVito and Ellen Burstyn.
Elsewhere the cast seems to have been put together by roll calling contemporary ‘it’ actors, resulting in the comedic talents of Greta Gerwig and Girls’ Zosia Mamet being all but squandered.
Wiener-Dog aims for wry, dry, and dark, but is instead outrageously patronising and horrible. It does provide a few smart laughs but they’re not worth the bitter taste you’ll walk away with, or the fiendish earworm of a theme tune.
CAST: Zosia Mamet, Danny DeVito, Greta Gerwig, Kieran Culkin, Julie Delpy, Ellen Burstyn
DIRECTOR: Todd Solondz
WRITER: Todd Solondz
SYNOPSIS: Chronicles the life of a dog as it travels around the country, spreading comfort and joy.