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The Dog Lover
A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that The Dog Lover is a drama bout a young animal rights activist who infiltrates a dog breeder's farm to expose his alleged negligence. Produced by conservative oil tycoon Lucas Forrest, the movie is loosely based on Forrest's campaign to defeat a Missouri bill that would have restricted dog breeding. The movie's position is pro-breeder and anti-animal rights organizations (it also promotes Christian conservatism and paints atheism and vegetarianism as close-minded); broader themes include giving people the benefit of the doubt, doing research before making judgments, and listening to the other side of a debate before blindly following a cause. There are a couple of kisses, as well as comments about a young woman's short shorts and V-neck being inappropriate; language is infrequent but includes "damn," "crap," and insults like "white trash." The main character encounters two men who are armed and threaten her that it would be their right to shoot her, since she's on their property. Other potentially upsetting scenes show a rabid dog that's about to attack a child but is killed before it can do so (by an adult with a shovel) and authorities coming to take a family's animals; the owner physically tries to stop them but is subdued.
- Parents say
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What's the story?
THE DOG LOVER chronicles the story of how animal rights activist Sara (Allison Paige), who works for the fictional United Animal Protection Agency (an anti-breeder animal advocacy and lobbying organization) is tasked with a risky assignment. She's asked to pose as a veterinary student to work undercover as an intern for Daniel Holloway (James Remar), a hunting-dog breeder who's vocally opposed to Prop 12, a bill the UAPA wants to pass that would make breeding illegal. The UAPA believes that if Sara infiltrates Holloway's dog-breeding farm, installs hidden cameras, and reports unsafe practices, they'll have a case to take down the Holloways (including Dan's wife, veterinarian Liz, played by Lea Thompson) and move forward with their proposed legislation. But as Sara gets to know the Holloways -- and even falls for Daniel's adult son, Will (Jayson Blair) -- she realizes that there's such a thing as safe breeding and begins to question the lengths to which the UAPA will go to take the Holloways (and all breeders) down.
Is it any good?
This moralistic, movie-of-the-week-style drama offers decent performances but an off-putting agenda courtesy of its conservative oil-billionaire producer, Lucas Forrest. All of the performances are finer than the material demands, with Remar and Thomspon particularly adept at playing salt-of-the-earth fourth-generation dog breeder Holloway and his vet wife. Blair is well cast as their self-sacrificing son, a kind and intelligent farm boy who gave up more sophisticated ambitions to help his stressed-out father with the family business.
As for Paige, she's best known as a soap actress, and she's definitely good at amping up the drama. Unfortunately, most of the drama in The Dog Lover hinges on the corny, predictable "twist" that while she participates in the UAPA with pure intentions as an animal lover, the actual organization is revealed to be more interested in fundraising campaigns and smearing decent breeders than saving animals. It's ironic that a movie that makes claims about the manipulative aspects of animal rights groups would itself be so manipulative.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about whether The Dog Lover has a political agenda. Is it OK for movies to promote specific points of view/ways of thinking? Do you need to agree with those positions in order to enjoy the movies that take them?
Does the movie make you curious about the story on which it's based? How accurate do you think it is? Why might filmmakers choose to alter facts when making a movie based on a true story? How could you find out more?
Who do you think the movie's intended audience is? What message do the filmmakers want them to take away from watching?
- In theaters: July 8, 2016
- On DVD or streaming: July 5, 2016
- Cast: Lea Thompson, James Remar, Allison Paige
- Director: Alex Ranarivelo
- Studio: ESX Entertainment
- Genre: Drama
- Topics: Cats, Dogs, and Mice
- Run time: 101 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG
- MPAA explanation: thematic elements, brief disturbing images and some language
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.