Rating: 2 out of 5 stars
Run Time: 1 hour 43 minutes, Rated PG-13
Starring: Diane Keaton, Kevin Kline, Dianne Wiest, Richard Jenkins,
Elisabeth Moss, Mark Duplass, Sam Shepard
Written by Lawrence and Meg Kasdan
Directed by Lawrence Kasdan (Body Heat, The Accidental Tourist, Wyatt Earp, French Kiss)
It is a crying shame that such talent is wasted in Darling Companion, the newest film from Lawrence Kasdan. Kasdan hasn’t directed a film since 2003’s Dreamcatcher, but boasts an impressive resume as a writer (have you heard of his scripts, The Empire Strikes Back, The Bodyguard or Raiders of the Lost Ark?). Darling Companion is co-written along with his wife, Meg Kasdan, who previously teamed up to scribe 1991’s Grand Canyon.
So this latest film manages to squander the talents of an Oscar-nominated writer/director, and the likes of Diane Keaton, Kevin Kline, Richard Jenkins and Dianne Wiest. Keaton and Kline are Beth and Joseph, an aging married couple with a daughter Grace, played by Elisabeth Moss. Mom stops the car when she sees something roadside, and it turns out to be an abandoned dog. They adopt the dog and name him “Freeway,” and this name is on par with how creative the rest of the script is.
Because of Freeway, Grace finds her true love and quickly gets married. Perhaps it wasn’t too quickly, but it takes all but 3 or 4 minutes of the film for her to meet, court and marry her new beau. The darling canine companion also seems to fill the void for Beth, whose distant surgeon husband has her desperately in need of a friend.
Freeway is a part of the family, until one day while walking him while at their vacation home, Joseph loses Freeway. Freeway, we hardly knew you.
Part of the film’s problem is just that…that even for a dog movie, we don’t get those patented cutesy shot of the dog. He’s barely in the film enough for us to care, although of course nobody wants to see a dog go missing. But can you already predict how this one is going to end? Do we really think things will end with Freeway, well, in pieces on a freeway?
No this goes just as one would suspect. The absence of the dog brings all of the family problems boiling up to the surface. Richard Jenkins and Dianne Wiest are along for the vacation, without giving much to do sadly.
Kevin Kline is so likeable and is seen in films so infrequently as of late, that it was hard not to root for this film to succeed. It just never did. About halfway through, it feels like a watered-down and harmless sentimental dramedy. By the film’s conclusion, it was a laughably contrived piece of…well, you know.
Things get so ridiculous so quickly towards the end, I left the theatre with quite the bad taste in my mouth. Still upon reflection, Darling Companion comes across as the definition of a misfire.
Kasdan was trying to put together a family drama that centered on a beloved pet, and anybody who owns a dog (like myself) knows that they are definitely a part of the family. This film is a dog all right, with Kasdan barking up all the wrong trees.
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