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44 of 50 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Molly Shannon surprises with a beautifully understated performance
Molly Shannon has made a career out "crazy", so it's not surprising that she shines here as the reclusive Peggy, whose closest and dearest friend is her pet beagle, Pencil. First-time director Mike White shows us how close they are, and how codependent Peggy is: they have dinner together, watch TV together, and sleep together, Peggy cuddling and hugging Pencil to her much...
Published on April 29, 2007 by Jonathan Appleseed

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9 of 12 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good, until it loses focus
"Year of the Dog", written and directed by Mike White ("Chuck and Buck", "School of Rock") and starring Molly Shannon (most well-known for her work on "Saturday Night Live"), is a low key comedy that starts off in a promising fashion but ultimately becomes tiresome.

Peggy (Molly Shannon) is a single office worker living in her large house in the San Fernando...
Published on May 17, 2007 by thornhillatthemovies.com


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44 of 50 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Molly Shannon surprises with a beautifully understated performance, April 29, 2007
Molly Shannon has made a career out "crazy", so it's not surprising that she shines here as the reclusive Peggy, whose closest and dearest friend is her pet beagle, Pencil. First-time director Mike White shows us how close they are, and how codependent Peggy is: they have dinner together, watch TV together, and sleep together, Peggy cuddling and hugging Pencil to her much as she might a boyfriend or husband. Pencil doesn't seem to mind.

But then Pencil is ripped from her life. Having trespassed onto a neighbor's lawn (John C. Reilly), he is found one morning lying on his side, unresponsive. A terrified Peggy tears off to the veterinarian, but it's too late. He's gone. White handles this delicate scene well. Instead of force-feeding Peggy's loss to us with frolicking scenes of a happy Peggy and a bouncing waggily-tailed Pencil, he simply shows her sobbing in her car in the vet's parking lot. It's raw emotion, and Shannon delivers.

The loss unhinges her, and she turns her mourning into a unique passion for life. Guided by an asexual clinic worker (Peter Saarsgard - if not brilliant as many are claiming, quite good in this roll) from her vet's office who helps place foster dogs, she is introduced to veganism, and PETA, amongst other "animal rights" activities, and she finds herself, suddenly, an accidental activist. Her newfound role disrupts the comfortable ones she has found herself in: spinster, gift-giving aunt, and trusted assistant to her boss.

I referenced above that Shannon has made a career out of "crazy", and while that's true, her more hilarious characters usually display their own unhinged grasp of reality through various forms of physical humor (Mary Catherine Gallagher on SNL, and Val Bassett on Will and Grace). Here Shannon is reserved, at once dramatic and comic.

Anyone that has ever had a pet (er, kid) is sure to love this. You'll laugh, you'll be choked up a bit, and in the end, you will probably cheer Peggy's courageous choices.

4 1/2 stars
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27 of 30 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Very Good 'Year' For Shannon and White, October 10, 2007
This review is from: Year of the Dog (DVD)
Screenwriter Mike White's "Year of the Dog," which marks his directorial debut, was underappreciated during theatrical release last spring despite its being chockfull of wit, charm, intriguing characters and a fiercely original plot. Molly Shannon strays out of comedic bounds and nails the lead character of Peggy, proving she has a wealth of dramatic talent that has gone largely underused. Now on DVD, her performance is a grand revelation.

Peggy is a typical wallflower working in a typical office building as a typical secretary. In her early 40's, her social calendar is an arctic wilderness yet she is acquiescent, for her supreme pleasure in life is devotion to Pencil, her impossibly adorable pet beagle. Pencil dies in a needless accident, however, and Peggy is sent into a harrowing tailspin. The death of a house pet may not seem more like an unfortunate event than a grand trauma, but viewers with this mindset are in for a surprise - the realization of Pencil's death is most rattling, and Shannon is a marvel to watch as her ensuing devastation twists and jerks throughout the course of the movie affecting all aspects of her life.

No one is able to empathize with her sad state, which puts her at odds with the world. Her friend and co-worker Layla, a Type A personality portrayed by the incomparable Regina King, insists that Peggy pursue a romantic life, loosen up and "stop shacking up with dogs." Her brother Pier and sister-in-law Bret, played with [...]-retentive relish by Thomas McCarthey and Laura Dern, expect her to move on quickly and avoid saying "d-e-a-t-h" in front of their first-grader. Meanwhile, her self-involved boss Robin, played to archetypal tight-wound perfection by Josh Pais, expects an early Christmas bonus should ease her troubles. Her neighbor Al, played by the always reliable John C. Reilly, hardly offers her any comfort either - never mind that he may be indirectly responsible for Pencil's death.

Then a light suddenly shines on Peggy in the form Newt, an ASPCA volunteer played by Peter Sarsgaard. As a result of their interactions and commonalities Peggy begins to feel parts of herself humanized that had before been merely dismissed, and soon embarks on a long, arduous journey that tests her willpower and inner spirit, not to mention her values.

"I've always been disappointed by people. I've really only been able to count on my pets," she says. "But it's enough."

Many will chastise White's script and question if PETA helped fund "Year of the Dog" due to its uncompromising look at the early stages that result in beef stew on the family table (though it never gets graphic) and animal rights issues in general. However, there are definite checks and balances within the script, which tells a story not about animals but about how one woman's deep love for them puts her on a path of self-discovery.

"There are so many kinds of life in this life - so many things to love," says Peggy. "This is my love. It is mine."

The idea that the definition of love is different for all people certainly warrants a movie of its own, and "Year of the Dog" does it justice many times over. Will it burn up the Oscars? Probably not. Rent it anyway.
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars absolutely wonderful !!!, September 21, 2007
By 
Robert I. Bloom (brooklyn, ny USA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Year of the Dog (DVD)
i havent laughed so hard at anything since the in-laws the one w peter falk of course--- this is a satire-- so most people dont even get it---- this movie is brilliantly written directed cast and acted-- the art direction and photography- everything adding up to a pitch perfect scathing satire-- making fun of obsessed people, pet owners vegans bizness people people who cant find love accept thru their not always so domesticated pet animals-- but whats most amazing is how straight its played and how funny it is-- this is brilliant work by all-- molly shannon is a revelation to watch--- the close ups are all perfect and hysterical--- satires are what close on saturday night a famous theatre anecdote states-- satires are usually not understood apparently--they require a certain sophistication of thought/ understanding that seems apparently beyond most --certainly the reviews ive read all miss the whole point of this right on gem-----i`m eternally grateful that writers producers etc--havent given up on this genre---- the moments of real drama here are so sharp and well acted-- mollys moment crying uncontrollably in her car-- amazing-- and then followed by such low key understated hysteria-- her bosses reaction to her problem-- the looks on their faces--- the movie is also about how people are in their own worlds and do not connect truly w each other---transferring intimacy to animals etc---- but its how well its all done that makes it so praiseworthy--- for those who will get it-- go get it !!!!! in its own way this is a real gem of a movie----i went from crying along w molly-- to laughing harder than ive laughed in -what ?? years ??!!!!! just moments later--- i truly love this movie--- but i know most wont-- too bad-you have no idea what you are missing- kudos to all involved--sheer brilliance !!!!
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful, unlike anything you'd expect, June 17, 2008
This review is from: Year of the Dog (DVD)
Year Of The Dog is a type of movie that I grow fonder of the more I think about it, and that's because what won me over about it is what surprises me the most. I expected, I guess, Molly Shannon being another deluded middle-aged woman locked up in suburban patois and lunacy - it is, after all, a movie about a woman who can't come to grips with the death of a very small dog named Pencil. I suppose she is suburban, a little repressed, and a little bit of a lunatic, but as written by Mike White, she's also complicated and human, and more than that, itching to get out in true and genuine ways. I've loved Mike White's scripts like Chuck & Buck and School Of Rock because they take premises that shouldn't succeed but do because their funniest moments are their truest. The scene I remember laughing hardest at here is a moment between Thomas McCarthy and Laura Dern as Shannon's brother and sister-in-law rambling on about the PTA - it's a moment of great heart and humor because it is so accurate of the way that, truly, our friends and loved ones get lost in bourgeois america, but also of the heart and need to connect they still retain. Year Of The Dog follows Shannon's Peggy into the pits of depression over her dead dog, and her decisions verge on the lunatic, alright, but what makes the movie such an accomplishment is that these decisions aren't making us laugh at her like a character on Saturday Night Live, they redeem her - as Peggy becomes a one-woman crusader to love animals, she also unearths the passion that her office job and stale life can't provide. What makes me love Year Of The Dog so much - beyond a performance out of Molly Shannon that, I'm serious, was sensitive and adroit in a way that its year's Oscar nominees for best actress were not - is that it is ultimately a story about being true to your passions and not apologizing for who you are. By the end, Peggy's invigoration is your own.
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19 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Serious AND Entertaining!!!, May 19, 2007
By 
Director Mike White hit a home run with this little gem of a movie. In Year of the Dog, actor Molly Shannon plays Peggy, a middle-aged woman more successful in forming relationships with animals than people. Peggy has a HUGE heart, and is always thinking of others... doughnuts for her coworkers, presents for her niece and nephew, and a listening post for those who need a friendly ear. At home, however, her life revolves around her dog, Pencil. A tragic accident sets into motion a series of experiences that have profound affects on Peggy, affecting every aspect of her life.

Peggy has a passion, and all passions can seem foolish, or trivial, or childish to others. Peggy will have none of this. She comes to believe that animals have a fundamental right to a cruelty-free existence. For a shy person, the actions precipitated by this belief seem out of character.

A few years ago, HBO had a dramatic feature called "To Love or To Kill." This 70 minute production sampled the wide range of interactions people have with animals: food, loved companions, sport, religious icons, research subjects, and helpers. How can we demonstrate such a wide variation in our values and attitudes? Why do we save the whales and eat the cows? Why avoid fur and wear leather? Why do some avoid beef yet eat chicken?

Tough questions! I look forward to this movie having a wide distribution, and encourage a vigorous and thoughtful discussion afterwards. I don't know that it has a rating, but it is probably PG... it probably doesn't deal with animal issues in ways more disturbing than, say, the movie Babe. However, in Year of the Dog, the focus clearly is on people, not animals.

Expect to hear the critics of animal use praise the film, and others to avoid it. And that would be a shame... this is one of those movies that works to make the viewers evaluate their own philosophies.

Go see it with a vegetarian.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A great turn from Shannon elevates this quirky film, October 22, 2007
This review is from: Year of the Dog (DVD)
Mike White has done some amazing stuff ("School of Rock" most of "Chuck and Buck") along with some ambitious near-misses ("The Good Girl" the ending of "Chuck and Buck"). He's in similar waters here detailing what happens when a woman who always says "yes" to everyone suddenly starts saying "no." Molly Shannon, never better, is a dog-lover who becomes much, much more than that--dog-idolizer? Dog savior? ANIMAL savior? Who knows? Unafraid to use her wide, wide smile to go from endearing to just a little frightening, it's a fearless performance. (The ending, in its beautiful ambiguity, reminds me a little of "Up the Sandbox.") Things get bumpy in the last half hour (when, at a key point, Shannon intones, "I'm so happy," you may seriously question her sanity), but of all the films I've seen this year, this one keeps lingering in the mind for reasons I can't quite pinpoint. Largely, it's due to Shannon's brave work, but there's also stellar support from Laura Dern (dripping condescension with every syllable) and a sexually ambiguous Peter Sarsgaard (never warmer or more endearing onscreen). A definite A-lister for animal lovers, and for fans of movies about women discovering themselves (it may also remind viewers of "I've Heard the Mermaids Singing"--and that's high praise).
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars humanity or animals, September 17, 2008
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This review is from: Year of the Dog (DVD)
what a surprise. for those out there expecting molly shannon to fall over backwards in her chair you'll be very disappointed. this is a story about people who cherish there animals and people who don't have a clue. for those of us who've been blessed with the love and loyalty of our four legged friends you know what i'm talking about. i'm going to buy 2 or 3 more copies to give to friends. one of the more interesting films i've seen in a while. oh by the way, it was produced by brad pitt.
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9 of 12 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good, until it loses focus, May 17, 2007
By 
thornhillatthemovies.com (Venice, CA United States) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)   
"Year of the Dog", written and directed by Mike White ("Chuck and Buck", "School of Rock") and starring Molly Shannon (most well-known for her work on "Saturday Night Live"), is a low key comedy that starts off in a promising fashion but ultimately becomes tiresome.

Peggy (Molly Shannon) is a single office worker living in her large house in the San Fernando Valley with her small dog, Pencil. Peggy idolizes her beagle, spending as much time as possible with him, enjoying every activity he partakes in, eating with him, sleeping with him. Peggy also enjoys bringing baked goods to the office (doughnuts, muffins, etc.), and stands sentinel as her office workers enjoy the treats and thank her for the goodies. One evening, Pencil wants to go out in the middle of the night, so Peggy opens the door and goes back to sleep. The next morning, Pencil hasn't returned. As she investigates, she hears him barking from the neighbors and knocks on Al's (John C. Reilly) door. They find Pencil in his backyard, sick. Peggy rushes him to the vet, but it is too late. Upset, she returns to work but can't concentrate. Her friend, Layla (Regina King), thinks this will finally help Peggy find a man, the dog was a distraction in her life. Her brother, Pier (Josh Pais) and sister-in-law, Bret (Laura Dern), don't offer any help because they won't discuss d-e-a-t-h in front of their young daughter. One day, Newt (Peter Sarsgaard), a worker at the vet's office, calls Peggy and asks her to adopt a German Shepherd who just arrived and will probably be put down. Peggy gladly takes the dog and asks Newt to help her train him. As they work together, Peggy becomes attracted to Newt. But will he return her affections?

"Year of the Dog" begins in a promising fashion. Director White and Shannon have created a very real portrait of a lonely woman who lives through the one being who returns her affection, her dog. There is a lot of richly observed comedy as we watch Peggy go through the motions of her life. She stands in the kitchen, eating her frozen dinner as she watches Pencil eat his dinner. She smiles and laughs as Pencil enjoys his time romping around at the dog park. She sends out Christmas cards featuring a picture of her and her dog wearing Santa caps. At work, she tries to offer encouragement to her boss, she seems to derive pleasure from the minimal, grudging attention she receives from her co-workers when she brings doughnuts (they're barely able to say `thank you'), and she is shocked, but hooked, on her conversations with Layla about her friend's love life.

Shannon does a great job of giving Peggy nuance that you might not find in a normal, run of the mill comedy. When she visits her brother and stepsister, she watches impassively as the married couple explains their philosophies of child rearing and discusses the treatment of their nanny. She is nervous, in an understated way, when she goes on a date with Al and then on another date with Newt. This all works very well.

The supporting cast is also very good. John C. Reilly makes a memorable appearance as Al, the neighbor who tries to commiserate with Peggy. An awkward lummox, Al's attempts to offer sympathy are laughingly misguided. Peter Sarsgaard is also good as Newt, the trisexual who enters Peggy's live; he loves men, he loves women, he loves dogs. Laura Dern is great as the waspy Bret, who believes she is the perfect mother; notes line almost every surface, reminders of policies, allergies, do's and don'ts.

A good indication of how low key this film will be can be found in two of the character's names... Peggy's last name is Spade and Newt's first name is, well... Newt. If you haven't already figured it out, these two pet lovers are named after what all pet lovers, including Bob Barker, feel you should do to your pets. Have them spade or neutered. It is an eccentric touch giving us an indication of how offbeat the filmmakers want "Year of the Dog" to be.

After the film gets going, and Peggy meets Newt, she begins to want to impress him. He is a vegan, so she becomes a vegan and starts espousing the ideals of that lifestyle. Then, she tries to help Newt find places for all of the animals that need homes. Then, she begins to find out about refuges; farms and other habitats that take in animals and help them live a more natural life. This is all interesting for her character, but it becomes a bit preachy. As she learns new things and becomes invested in them, director White seems to want to educate the audience as well. This wouldn't necessarily be a bad thing, but the education is not subtle. Also, given the audience for this film, I suspect most of the people who will attend a screening of "Year" are at least familiar with these ideas. It becomes a bit like preaching to the choir. It also becomes tedious and brings the story, the humor and the characters to a grinding halt.

It is nice to see Molly Shannon in a leading role, something that shows off her gifts as a comedian and an actress. Her previous film work has been very broad and only highlighted the same comedy she is already known for from her years on "Saturday Night Live". Here, she is playing what could conceivably be a real person, just a bit funnier. It is a nice performance that will hopefully lead to many more.

This is director White's first film; his previous credits have been as a writer. He shows some promise; he is able to plumb the little moments in a normal person's life for humor, but this film is not a great effort. It is ultimately too slow, too meandering and too preachy for its own good.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Not your average comedy., November 16, 2012
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This review is from: Year of the Dog (DVD)
I feel like this film gets a bad rap. I enjoyed watching Year of the Dog. I've seen it twice and really think people underestimate how honest and quirky this film really is. Molly Shannon gives a stellar performance, she has never been better! I also enjoy Mike White who co-stars and wrote this film...he also wrote The Good Girl starring Jennifer Aniston. Shannon's character is shy, sullen, and completely isolated. After he beloved beagle dies, she has a meltdown. Her personality changes and she can't quite get a grip on reality. This film isn't flashy or cookie-cutter, it's just real and comical. I highly recommend this surprise gem, enjoy!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A movie for true animal lovers..., April 5, 2011
By 
This review is from: Year of the Dog (DVD)
This movie was fantastic. Funny, sad, very well-acted, and would have to be greatly enjoyed by real animal and dog lovers. For those who found it boring, they shouldn't have been watching it in the first place. And to the imbecile who says that it glorifies mental illness and animal hoarding, get a life. It's a comedy-drama, and it doesn't glorify anything but a love and compassion for animals. Those who actually do keep many animals in an unhealthy environment are not getting their ideas from movies. If you didn't like it, then that's your problem, but don't say such an idiotic thing like that about it, because it doesn't make sense.
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Year of the Dog
Year of the Dog by Mike White
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