Dogman movie review & film summary (2024)
Movie Reviews

Dogman movie review & film summary (2024)

Besson (“The Fifth Element”) often encourages Jones to take big swings in his performance as Doug, a soft-spoken showboat who’s constantly tested and underestimated by a litany of cosmic injustices. Doug’s a sullen martyr with a mood board of singularly endearing underdog qualities—in addition to saving pooches, Doug also loves cosplaying as Edith Piaf—that Besson and Jones never pull together into a compelling character study.

In his smaller roles, Jones tends to get by on his waxey, hard looks, which suggest a coy, mercurial presence who acts out with alarming regularity. Jones always looks sickly and threatening, all roving eyes and watery scowls. So you can easily imagine why he was cast as Doug, who gets arrested in an early scene while wearing a tacky pink dress, with matching forearm-length gloves, and then spends most of the movie recalling his sordid backstory to the sympathetic, but under-developed police psychiatrist Dr. Evelyn Decker (Jojo T. Gibbs).

Jones braces himself with an unfortunate Blanche DuBois southern accent and a preening hard stare throughout Doug’s meandering conversations with Evelyn. Neither of these stock gestures becomes more endearing with over-use, especially given how unconvincing Besson’s dialogue tends to be, and how over-edited most of Doug and Evelyn’s dialogue scenes are, too.

Evelyn usually sets Doug up for more self-pitying observations about his sad life. Some choppy flashbacks confirm how unlovable and neglectful the world can be, even for a proud survivor like Doug. He will eventually strut out of his wheelchair, with some over-emphasized difficulty, and drape himself across a silhouette of Christ’s cross. “I am standing—for you!” Doug yells while “Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien” blares on the soundtrack.

Campy and joyless, Doug’s story isn’t even fun when it takes detours into the cabaret night club world of drag. There’s so much flat, uninflected build-up to these scenes, too, and no cliché seems to have been left out of Doug’s exhausting account of why he’s such a quirky-sad anomaly. In Jones-less flashbacks, we see a young Doug (Lincoln Powell) thrown into a dog kennel and then antagonized by his sanctimonious older brother Richie (Alexander Settineri), who wears a big cross around his neck, and his cartoonishly overbearing father Mike (Clemens Schick), another violent pseudo-Christian. These dismal establishing scenes mainly reflect Besson’s knowledge of hoary pulp fiction clichés. Sometimes cute, well-trained dogs show up and do some tricks. They also deserve better material.

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