As any dog lover will tell you, our four-legged friends make everything better. That’s especially true when it comes to the genial if overly familiar ensemble comedy “Dog Days,” whose four-legged stars bring out the best in the movie’s crisscross of humans — and in the film itself.
But the script by Elissa Matsueda and Erica Oyama is a bit of a missed opportunity. Although it nicely hits some key thematic and emotional beats (plan to shed a tear or two), it’s too safe and unsurprising for its own PG-rated good. If the writers and director Ken Marino were going for “Love Actually” with dogs (imagine that!), they didn’t quite get there.
Still, you could do far worse during these, er, dog days of summer, than this family film-meets-romcom romp, in which pooches prove the catalysts for an idealized group of Angelenos to navigate a mix of everyday hurdles — some more significant and plausible than others.
These dog-centric, often overlapping folks include an uptight morning TV host (Nina Dobrev) and her lively new co-anchor (Tone Bell), an ex-NFL star; a slackerish musician (Adam Pally) whose inept sister (Jessica St. Clair) and brother-in-law (Thomas Lennon) are the beleaguered parents of newborn twins; a chipper barista (Vanessa Hudgens) smitten with a hot veterinarian (Michael Cassidy) but pursued by the nerdy owner (Jon Bass) of an ailing dog rescue business; an anxious couple (Eva Longoria, Rob Corddry) settling in with their newly adopted daughter; and an elderly widower (Ron Cephas Jones) who befriends a fatherless pizza delivery kid (Finn Wolfhard).
They make for a root-worthy bunch of characters that are easy enough to spend time with, enjoyably portrayed by a reliable cast. (Bell and Jones are standouts, but, unfortunately, comedian Tig Notaro can’t do much with her half-baked role as an overpriced doggie shrink.)
As for the array of charismatic, camera-ready canines, they range from obedient to rambunctious — but always lovable — elevating most every scene they’re in by their sheer presence. To Marino’s credit, although he sometimes nudges the comedy too hard or overplays a moment (an ill-timed rendition of “Amazing Grace” is kinda deadly), he rarely allows the dogs to appear too cutesy or unctuous. They legitimately earn their “awws.”
Rating: PG, for rude and suggestive content, and for language
Running time: 1 hour, 52 minutes
Playing: Starts Aug. 8 in general release