Feeble title aside, Alex Ranarivelo’s “The Dog Lover” would initially appear to be a standard issue, if heavy-handed, family-oriented drama about a young woman who goes undercover as a college intern to gather evidence against a suspected puppy mill operation.
Considered an emerging talent at the United Animal Protection Agency, a PETA-type rights organization campaigning aggressively for stronger animal welfare laws, Sara Gold (Allison Paige) is dispatched to a farm where dog breeder Daniel Holloway (James Remar) is believed to be rearing pups under inhumane conditions.
Posing as a veterinary assistant, Sara, armed with her cellphone and assorted hidden cameras, goes about her unpaid detective work while also developing feelings for the stern Holloway’s much more congenial son, Will (Jayson Blair), who bears more than a passing resemblance to C. Thomas Howell.
Without necessitating a spoiler alert, let’s just say that there’s definitely something going on, but if the UAPA has a clear-cut agenda, it’s not the only ones.
It turns out that the film’s executive producer, oil tycoon and Protect the Harvest founder Forrest Lucas, has taken not-so-veiled inspiration from his failed 2010 campaign against animal protection groups to defeat Missouri’s Prop B, which was aimed at preventing cruelty to dogs in puppy mills.
The film’s prevailing theme may be that nothing is black and white, but the execution, with its strident lobbyists, salt-of-the-earth farmers and onscreen admonition to “investigate before you donate,” proves spottier than a kennel full of caged Dalmatians.
‘The Dog Lover’
MPAA rating: PG, for thematic elements, brief disturbing images and some language
Running time: 1 hour, 41 minutes
Playing: Laemmle’s Music Hall, Beverly Hills