PLOT The lives of several people, and their dogs, intersect in Los Angeles.
CAST Nina Dobrev, Adam Pally, Eva Longoria, Tone Bell
RATED 2.5 stars
BOTTOM LINE A formulaic but sweet rom-com featuring a fresh cast of humans and canines.
Babies, puppies, first dates and diamond rings abound in Ken Marino's “Dog Days,” a rom-com with a canine theme and a title tailored to an August release date. If that all sounds a little cute and obvious, it is – but darned if “Dog Days” doesn't have its charms. Graced by an appealing cast and directed with an admirably light touch by Ken Marino, “Dog Days” ends up feeling as easy and pleasant as a walk in the park.
“Dog Days” is a multiple-storyline movie, a format that sometimes works (see 2003's “Love, Actually,” a clear inspiration here) but very often doesn't (see 2010's “Valentine's Day” for a cautionary tale). Set in Los Angeles, “Dog Days” covers roughly five different narratives, with some overlap. Our lovelorn heroine is Elizabeth (Nina Dobrev), the too-perfect host of a local “Today” style morning show who must suddenly share her spotlight with a loosey-goosey former L.A. Rams player, Jimmy (Tone Bell). Vanessa Hudgens gets roughly equal screen time as Tara, a barista with a crush on handsome veterinarian Dr. Mike (Michael Cassidy), though we're pretty sure she'll end up with Garrett (Jon Bass), the good-hearted nerd who runs a doggie adoption center called New Tricks.
We also have Dax (Adam Pally), an irresponsible rock musician who suddenly finds himself saddled with Charlie, a demanding but lovable labradoodle. (Charlie is played by Tucker, whose performance deserves special mention; he's quite funny as a dog who goes catatonic after eating a packet of pot brownies). In a more sentimental vein, a lost pug brings together a reclusive former English professor, Walter (Ron Cephas Jones), and a pizza delivery boy, Tyler (Finn Wolfhard), in need of tutoring. Their story dovetails into that of Grace and Kurt (Eva Longoria and Rob Corddry), whose newly adopted daughter (Elizabeth Caro) comes out of her shell after bringing home a stray. In small roles, Tig Notaro, Thomas Lennon and Phoebe Neidhardt score some major laughs.
Marino, a former member of the sketch-comedy troupe The State (and a West Islip native), directs his second feature (following 2017's “How to Be a Latin Lover”) with an easy confidence that lets his actors breathe and radiate their natural charm. Only the outtakes shown during the closing credits remind you of how the comedy sausage gets made; otherwise you'd swear “Dog Days” came straight from the script, by Elissa Matsueda and Marino's wife, Erica Oyama. It all adds up to the movie equivalent of a chew toy: familiar, comforting and a little gooey.