What You Need To Know:
YEAR OF THE DOG doesn't tell viewers what to think of it. Are we supposed to hit the pound and rescue all the dogs about to be put to sleep because it’s easier than rescuing humans? Or, is Peggy just a sad figure who can’t relate to human beings so she invests all of her being into animals? The movie is at cross-purposes with itself and leaves no clear picture of what it is trying to say.
(PaPa, Ro, PCPC, EE, L, V, S, AA, D, MM) Strong pagan worldview with some Romantic elements, and strong politically correct animal rights activism; two or three obscenities; some comic mayhem and woman attempts to stab her neighbor for accidentally poisoning her dog; sex is implied through the protagonist’s work friend's love affair; no nudity; alcohol use and drunkenness; Xanax is offered to woman Peggy when her beloved pet dog dies; and, forgery, vandalism and woman torments her niece with implied stories about how cows and chickens get to the dinner table.
YEAR OF THE DOG sounds like a good story, but it doesn’t end that way. A 40-something woman named Peggy, played by Molly Shannon (who can be extremely funny), unlucky in love, devotes her attention to Pencil. Pencil is a beagle who takes up all of Peggy’s time, except for the few hours she works as an assistant to a junior executive. Her cubical workspace comes to look more like a cage in the dog pound as the movie develops; she reaches out at breaks and lunches for human contact.
When Pencil dies suddenly, the story changes drastically. Peggy dates her neighbor (John C. Reilly) who hunts, drives a pick-up and can’t wait to show her his trophies. She spurns him and falls for an animal rights activist, who has turned to celibacy after several unlucky attempts at love. Undaunted by another rejection in human love, she becomes a zealous activist herself through forgery, destruction of property and ultimately the swaying of a child’s fragile perception.
The movie gets even more bizarre when Peggy rescues nearly 20 dogs about to be put down. The result of her benevolence is a hysterical scene of mayhem with the dogs running wild in her apartment, but the scene ends up being sad instead of funny.
Peggy goes to her brother for help and is comforted, but does not really change. She gets her job, her friends and her family back, but that’s not what makes her happy. The last scene shows her on an animal rights bus waving a handmade sign. Perhaps that makes her happy.
So what are we supposed to think about this movie? Are we supposed to hit the pound and rescue all the dogs that are about to be put to sleep because it’s easier than rescuing humans? The movie doesn’t tell us. YEAR OF THE DOG is at cross-purposes with itself and leaves us with no clear picture of what it is trying to say.