Must Love Dogs tells the story of Sarah Nolan (Diane Lane), a newly divorced woman cautiously rediscovering romance with the enthusiastic but often misguided help of her well-meaning family. As she braves a series of hilarious disastrous mismatches and first dates, Sarah begins to trust her own instincts again and learns that. no matter what, it’s never a good idea to give up on love.
The combined charisma of Diane Lane and John Cusack gives a lift to Must Love Dogs, a romantic comedy built on the comic potential of internet dating. Sarah (Lane, Under the Tuscan Sun), a preschool teacher and recent divorcee, has her entire family bugging her to get back in the dating pool. Finally her sister (dependable second banana Elizabeth Perkins, Big) puts an ad for Sarah online; a host of questionable prospects respond, but Sarah meets one guy–a boat builder named Jake (John Cusack, High Fidelity, Say Anything)–who shows promise, though he himself is recently divorced and a little tender. Unfortunately, Sarah also feels sparks with the father (Dermot Mulroney, My Best Friend’s Wedding) of one of her students, and when paths cross, trouble follows. Must Love Dogs has some amusing scenes, but the tone and quality is wildly erratic–it’s as if the movie was broken into a dozen parts and randomly assigned to different writers and directors, some of whom were making a bad sitcom, some of whom were making a good sitcom, and some of whom were making a movie that blended wry comedy with some deft psychological insight. The great cast (in addition to solid work from those mentioned above, there’s also Stockard Channing and Christopher Plummer) keep the story moving, but for every amusing moment there are two that are plastic, forced, or wince-inducing. –Bret Fetzer
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