Must Love Dogs Movie Poster Image

Must Love Dogs

Cute but predictable -- teen girls may like it.
  • Rated: PG-13
  • Genre: Comedy
  • Release Year: 2005
  • Running Time: 98 minutes

What parents need to know

Positive messages

Lying on the Internet to get dates, romantic cheating.


Brief, antic running and falling. A kid gets a bloody nose.


Sexual references and discussions of Internet dating, some sex scenes, a shot of a woman showering (back to camera).


Jokey sexual references, one s-word and mild profanity like "damn".


Generic/fictional coffee shop and Internet sites.

Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Some drinking.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that the movie includes repeated references to dating, body descriptions ("voluptuous"), and sex, including a couple of scenes in bed, and one in a shower (here the protagonist is naked, her back to the camera, alone and upset), as well as some party drinking. A woman ends up on a blind date with her father. There is some mild profanity. As its focus is Internet dating, the film also shows how it involves performing, deceiving, and self-deluding. A middle-aged woman "chats" with and attracts the attentions of a 15-year-old, whom she sends home immediately.

What's the story?

Preschool teacher and divorcee Sarah (Diane Lane) doesn't want to think of herself as desperate, but her family -- widower dad Bill (Christopher Plummer), a bunch of brothers, and a couple of sisters, including Carol (the excellent Elizabeth Perkins) -- press the point. With Carol's prodding, Sarah enters her data into a dating site. Though her first "match" is her father ("This is disturbing on so many levels," she groans), she persists, meeting with a number of bad matches (sad guy, cocky guy, preoccupied guy), until she finds Jake (the way-too-smart-for-formula-comedies John Cusack). Also recently divorced, he loves Doctor Zhivago (because it's about "a love so real it hurts even after you're dead") and crafts wooden skulls (boats) for a living. He's clever, speeds through his dialogue ("You are kind of 'voluptuous,'" he notes, observing a dubious description in her Internet ad, "in a minimalist kind of way"), and worries about how he comes across. He is, in a word, perfect guy.

Is it any good?


Burdened by a familiar premise (Internet daters are desperate), MUST LOVE DOGS constrains its excellent performers. Sarah wants most to avoid the fate of one of her father's girlfriends, the dazzling Dolly (Stockard Channing). She sees the Internet as a new horizon ("It's part fantasy, part community," she gushes, "And it lets you pay your bills naked"), but thinks again when she meets in person one of "chat" partners, a 15-year-old boy who's developed a serious crush on her.

Perhaps because he's so young, this kid has conviction, though he duly leaves when instructed ("Do your homework," says Dolly has she loads him in a cab). Sarah's route to her relationship is more roundabout, even though Jake is obviously the right choice. Cusack's refreshingly odd physical and verbal rhythms only make you want to see more of him. And why does Jake spend even a minute with the nubile, cheap-joke-in-a miniskirt Sherry (Jordana Spiro)? He's so obviously Sarah's right choice that the rest of the movie looks like wheel-spinning.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about Sarah's family's meddling in her dating business: they mean well, but the film suggests they are pushy too, such that Sarah worries about being single. How is Sarah distracted by her widower father's dating? How is her choice between Bob and Jake reduced to who seems less "scary" to her? How does the Internet affect the ways people interact, in romance and as families?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:July 29, 2005
DVD/Streaming release date:December 20, 2005
Cast:Dermot Mulroney, Diane Lane, John Cusack
Director:Gary David Goldberg
Studio:Warner Bros.
Run time:98 minutes
MPAA rating:PG-13
MPAA explanation:sexual content

This review of Must Love Dogs was written by

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Educator and Parent of a 15 and 16 year old Written byEluminahta December 7, 2009
I enjoyed the movie. It was kind of predictable but that can be comforting sometimes. Use your discretion as a parent before allowing your teen to view it. J.E.N.
What other families should know
Too much sex
Too much swearing
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking
Great messages
Great role models
Teen, 15 years old Written bykatiemay017 January 4, 2010

Very Good movie 13+

I like this movie alot. although in the middle i find it pretty sad when John Cusaks character sees her kissing another guy and everything gets messed up. It is a bit predictable, but that can be good sometimes. Great movie to watch when ur in the mood to watch a romantic film. there are a few scenes with hints of sexuality. but its isnt that bad
Adult Written bywonder dove February 1, 2013

Too cute!

Pretty good movie! It took me while to actually see this movie as I'm not a huge chick flick fan because they always turn out the same. However, yes this was predictable but it was also fun. I thought I'd only last about half of it but ended up watching it all! I admire John Cusack, he is such a wonderful actor. Diane Lane was refreshing (if you want to see her younger as a teen watch The Outsiders!) The film is an upbeat romantic comedy with plenty of laughs, but not much dog stuff which I was hoping for. Language is pretty mild. Sexual content is quite frequent but nothing extreme - lots of dating scenes, dating sites, talking about dating, kissing, a couple search for a condom and end up driving to several stores but then change their minds about going to bed, scene of a revealing cleavage shown in a skimpy dress, lots of relationship talk...etc. No real violence to worry about. I'll be watching this one again soon!
What other families should know
Too much sex