I didn't hate "Must Love Dogs", but I didn't find it memorable, either. The film takes two very good actors - Diane Lane and John Cusack - and proceeds to let them coast through a very routine romantic comedy plot. The film opens with Sarah (Diane Lane) coming off a rough divorce, and it doesn't take long before everyone in her family are gathered around her to try and fix her up with one person or another.
Her sister Carol (Elizabeth Perkins) takes matters into her own hands and, without asking, puts Sarah's information up on an internet dating site. Although Sarah's understandably upset, she starts to rethink things when she finds that she's quickly gotten a legion of responses. Of course, all of the dates turn out to be incredible disasters, but Jake (John Cusack) seems different: the two have something of a connection and, despite a lot of awkwardness, both sense that there's something there. However, a challenge steps in the way in the form of Bob (Dermot Mulroney), the parent of one of Sarah's students.
Director/writer Gary David Goldberg adapted the script from a novel by Claire Cook. I've not read the book, and it does the novel no favors: I can't imagine anyone wanting to seek it out after seeing the film. In fact, Goldberg's awfully lucky he's attracted a first-rate cast that includes Lane, Cusack, Christopher Plummer, Stockard Channing, Elizabeth Perkins and others. However, they're all working in service of a screenplay that's made up of parts and pieces of other romantic comedies. Goldberg, a respected TV writer/director ("Family Ties", "Spin City") doesn't help things by taking a very sitcom approach to filming the material.
In other words, this is absolutely predictable stuff, and yet it's made watchable by Cusack and Lane, who - despite not exactly seeming like a good pair - are actually pretty good together. Cusack, on the other hand, gives the stronger performance, as his unique, flawless timing and intensity manages to give a great spin to some bland lines. Everyone here deserves better material, but working what they got, they take medicore material and bring it up to the level of watchable.
VIDEO: "Must Love Dogs" is presented by Warner Brothers in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. The presentation quality is perfectly fine, with only a few minor issues present. Sharpness and detail were mostly first-rate, although there were a few moments where the picture did suddenly look a tad soft.
Aside from the slightly inconsistent sharpness, the picture did show some minor instances of edge enhancement, and a couple of traces of artifacts. No print flaws were seen, and most of the picture appeared crisp and clear. Colors remained warm and well-saturated, with no smearing or other concerns.
SOUND: "Must Love Dogs" is offered in Dolby Digital 5.1. This is a very tame audio presentation that remains completely front-focused and dialogue-driven. Little in the way of ambience is offered, and surrounds are never used. Audio quality is fine, but nothing noteworthy: dialogue remains clear and easily understood, while the music/score sounded crisp, but not particularly full or dynamic.
EXTRAS: Deleted scenes w/optional commentary, trailer and gag reel.
Final Thoughts: Forgettable yet watchable thanks to a few very good performances, "Must Love Dogs" may work as an average date night rental. Warner Brothers has provided a fine DVD edition, with very good video quality, standard audio and a few minor supplements.
The Film B-