Year of the Dog Parent Guide
Parent Movie Review
Most films have an agenda, a statement the filmmaker wants to drive home to audiences. But if there is one in Year of the Dog, it isn’t easy to put a paw on. The movie doesn’t appear to be aimed exclusively at either side of the animal activist argument. Rather, this quirky script unleashes a wildly exaggerated pack of characters that run rampant across the screen, colliding with each other but rarely connecting.
Peggy (Molly Shannon) is a 40-something single secretary who dresses older than her years and finds social interactions difficult. Living alone, she coddles her pup, Pencil, buying him toys, taking him for walks and lining her cubicle with his picture. When the dog unexpectedly dies, Peggy is devastated.
Newt (Peter Sarsgaard) is an assistant at the vet clinic where Peggy took Pencil. One day, he calls the mourning pet owner to tell her about an abandoned pooch that needs adopting. After offering to help her train the rowdy German shepherd, the two animal lovers discover they have similar interests in protecting and preserving living things.
Al (John C. Reilly), on the other hand, is Peggy’s next-door neighbor. He loves to spend his weekends out in the woods with a rifle and displays his sporting successes (i.e. mounted deer heads and other treasures) on the walls of his home along with his large collection of hunting knives.
At work, Peggy interacts with equally interesting people—a self-important boss (Josh Pais) suffering from office politics “victimitis” and a cleavage-baring colleague (Regina King) trying to corral her boyfriend (Dale Godboldo) into marriage. Even Peggy’s brother (Thomas McCarthy) and his super-sensitive, overprotective, control freak wife (Laura Dern) have issues.
It’s this mix of overstated, but nonetheless plausible, individuals that makes Year of the Dog a kind of Napoleon Dynamite for adults. While the characters come dangerously close at times to going over the edge (or beyond) of reasonableness, they also have their moments of lucidity, when their perspectives seem perfectly normal and sane. As well, their opposing viewpoints on touchy subjects such as animal rights, child rearing and risk-taking make them interesting foils for one another, especially from a film study point of view.
While children or teens will likely find little to relate to, the obscure opinion of the screenplay will allow adults to connect with whichever position they agree with. The deaths of several dogs, sexual discussions, infrequent offensive comments and the attempted murder of one character may also be reasons to leave the kids at home.
Yet for adults interested in character studies and satirical humor, this oddball picture may be just the kind of dog show you’ll prize.Starring Molly Shannon, Peter Sarsgaard, Regina King, John C. Reilly, Laura Der. Theatrical release April 19, 2007. Updated April 20, 2009
Year of the Dog
Rating & Content Info
Why is Year of the Dog rated PG-13? Year of the Dog is rated PG-13 by the MPAA for some suggestive references.
Unlike most dog films (other than Old Yeller), mutts do die in this film, although their deaths are not shown. Following the demise of her pet, Molly almost immediately adopts an unruly pooch who snaps at others, bites her on the hand and kills a small dog. One animal must be euthanized. On a date, Peggy meets a man who tells her about his hunting adventures and the accidental shooting of his pet. A woman steals money from her boss and later breaks into a man’s home and attempts to kill him with a hunting knife. Dogs are irresponsibly cared for and one defecates in the house. Peggy’s friend suggests prescription drugs, getting drunk or having casual sex as a way to overcome depression. A woman accuses another of drugging her child with over-the-counter cold medicine. Sexual discussions occur between several characters. Other language concerns include a crude term for sex, some profanities and offensive comments.
Page last updated April 20, 2009
More parents' guide for Year of the Dog after the break...
Year of the Dog Parents' Guide
Peggy turns to pets because people disappoint her. Who reaches out to Peggy? What kind of support does she receive from others? Why do you think she isn’t able to see it?
How does your perspective on animals affect the way you view of this film? What do you think the script saying about animal rights? Can those attitudes be taken to the extreme? What are the positives and negatives of animal testing?
Each of these characters has his or her own agenda or hobbyhorse. What are they? How are their obsessions portrayed? Can an interest be taken too far?
The most recent home video release of Year of the Dog movie is August 28, 2007. Here are some details…
Year of the Dog strays onto DVD with audio tracks in Dolby Digital (English).
Related home video titles:
This film’s writer, Mike White, is known for creating other offbeat characters. In School of Rock, an aspiring rock musician (Jack Black) shanghais an elementary classroom of high achievers to be in his rock band. In Nacho Libre, a monk (also played by Black) at a poor Mexican orphanage moonlights as a wrestler to buy food for the children.