This writer is not a fan of most dog movies, as they are either mind-numbingly stupid, or so treacly they give you a toothache. So in reviewing the film Gone Doggy Gone at the 2014 Dances with Film Festival, my expectations were not high that this film would be any different.
Thank God my expectations were blown out of the water. Writers-Directors (and stars) Kasi Brown and Brandon Walter takes the concept of the beloved dog movie and turn it on its head—and we are the better for it.
Gone Doggy Gone is about Abby and Eliott, a high-powered L.A. couple stuck in a lackluster marriage, who treat their dog like a baby. The couple leave little time for each other, and what free time they have they spend doting on the dog…until it gets kidnapped.
The concept was inspired by Laila, Kasi’s toy Yorkshire Terrier.
“We had a dog sitter named Jill who used to watch Laila,” Kasi explained. “She would call Laila her BFF, and then she started sending me pictures of her at the movie theater with Laila. Then she would call and go, ‘I have Laila at a waxing appointment, so we're going to be a little late.’ And then photos of her at luncheons with Laila, and then she brought her home later, and later, and later. Brandon finally said, ‘What if she doesn't bring your dog home?’
“We also saw people stuffing their dogs into Baby Bjorns, pushing them in strollers, and a 56 billion dollar business evolving; so we thought it might be a movie.”
The 22-day shoot with an impressive cast and crew produced a delightfully funny movie that skewers this concept of dogs as “babies”. While Gone Doggy Gone pokes fun at high-powered L.A. marriages, Cougars, and the L.A. tendency toward self-medication, it artfully digs into the psychology of why people do what they do, and delves into the root cause of the strain between Abby and Eliott.
“That's what we like to write about,” Kasi said. “We love psychology; that's our favorite thing.”
Brandon deepens this point. “We like to explore why people do the things they do—because it's funny! It's funny to see why someone does something.”
The B-story of Jill, Laila’s sitter, is skillfully weaved with Abby and Eliott’s journey, and their desperate search for Laila. Jill, portrayed with polish and compassion by Shaina Vorspan, is beautifully (sometimes painfully) fleshed out. All the characters are well-written, and well-conceived. You relate, attach, and when the madcap shenanigans switch into high gear, you are more than happy to come along for the ride.
Gone Doggy Gone is making the film festival rounds and is currently seeking distribution. Wish them luck in finding it, as this movie is a must see—whether you love dogs, or love to laugh at people who love them a little too much.