A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Wiener-Dog is a strange, dark, deadpan comedy from Todd Solondz and is a kind of disconnected follow-up to his Welcome to the Dollhouse (1996). It has some brief but upsetting violence -- specifically, an animal is killed in traffic and then run over multiples times -- as well as footage from a violent video game (Postal 2). Doggie diarrhea is shown, and a child is said to be a cancer survivor. Language is very strong, with several uses of "f--k" and "s--t," as well as other words. A woman says that she once posed nude; one character may be a drug dealer. Some smoking is shown, and there's talk of both crystal meth and of a character drinking himself to death.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
The parents (Julie Delpy and Tracy Letts) of a young cancer survivor surprise him with a pet Dachshund; the boy names her "WIENER-DOG." After an unfortunate incident involving doggie diarrhea, Wiener-Dog ends up rescued by Dawn Wiener (the main character from Welcome to the Dollhouse, now played by Greta Gerwig) and taken on the road with her old acquaintance (Kieran Culkin). The dog is then passed to a developmentally disabled couple, a depressed screenwriter-turned-teacher (Danny DeVito), and a money-grubbing twenty-something who tries to get money from her grandmother (Ellen Burstyn) to finance her boyfriend's newest animal-related art project.
Is it any good?
Indie filmmaker Todd Solondz, best known for his morose 1990s films Welcome to the Dollhouse and Happiness, returns with this peculiar deadpan road movie, which is as aimless as it is fascinating. It vaguely recalls the great French film Au hasard Balthazar (1966), in which a donkey goes through several owners and affects their lives in interesting, spiritual ways. But the Wiener-Dog of this movie, on the other hand, seems to become less and less important, inspiring no spiritual awakening and very little hope.
Still, Solondz somehow injects these miserable characters with a weirdly appealing humanity, even if they rarely make us laugh out loud or evoke any sympathy. They're like skilled stick figure drawings, an offbeat representation of humanity. The almost random appearance of Dawn Wiener, the main character from Welcome to the Dollhouse -- now 21 years older and played by Gerwig -- adds to the overall atmosphere of puzzlement. It's as if something just outside the margins is intriguingly missing.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the brief, strong violence in Wiener-Dog. How did it affect you? Is it scary? Shocking? Thrilling? How does the filmmaker choose to show it? What's the impact of media violence on kids?
How important is the dog to the story? How does she affect those around her? How do they affect her?
Which of these characters, if any, could be considered admirable? Do any of them have a positive outlook? How would you describe the movie's general attitude toward its characters?
- In theaters: June 24, 2016
- On DVD or streaming: August 23, 2016
- Cast: Greta Gerwig, Danny DeVito, Julie Delpy
- Director: Todd Solondz
- Studios: Amazon Studios, IFC Films
- Genre: Comedy
- Topics: Cats, Dogs, and Mice
- Run time: 90 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: language and some disturbing content
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