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A DOG'S BREAKFAST
2007
Written by David Hewlett & Jane Loughman and directed by David Hewlett
88 Minutes
Rated PG-13

I'll come out and say that I absolutely love David Hewlett. Not enough to watch any of the Stargate series I grant you, but just about any film he's got a reasonable role in I'll watch. I though he stole Cube out from some other very talented actors, he was fun in Cypher and Nothing, and he made Scanners II surprisingly good. He is a cool dude. So when I found out he'd written and directed a film with his wife, and that it was available on Netflix, I sought it out.

A Dog's Breakfast is the dictionary definition of a small film, done simply and cheaply, wrapped in a neat little bow. This is the kind of movie that more money could only spoil, rewrites could only ruin, and subplots could only derail. It is an exceedingly lean, warm, quaint film. It is relentlessly charming. The "A Film By" credit doesn't even appear until after the end credits, whereupon there's a shot of everyone who worked on the film saying "all of us!" in unison. It is the small town of films.

What separates it from any other microbudget production is the staggering attention to detail and just how frankly clean it is. The lack of a distinct director's signature in the camerawork is to its favor; Hewlett keeps every shot functional, practical, and traditional. He avoids excessive cutting, and makes effective use of the soundtrack to cover up any shots or effects he either couldn't afford or simply didn't need to show. The settings and set decoration are equally precise, with smart use of detail (all of the outlines of the furniture that was sold in online auctions) that pays off throughout the film.

"Clean" remains the operative word at almost every step. The most offensive things in the film might be some exceedingly mild gore and a bare man ass. This is the kind of movie you could happily show your children or watch as a family, as profanity is spare at worst, and any of the precious few sex jokes are going to go right over their heads.

Honestly it's tough to pin down exactly what I love about the film because the details blend seamlessly together. There's a lot of slapstick, quite a few clever sight and sound gags, and some smart, rapid fire dialogue exchanges. Very few (if any) gags actually outright fail.

The acting certainly helps pull it all together. People who have any kind of relationship offscreen oftentimes seem awkward together on camera, but David and his brother Kate have the exact kind of love and rapid fire rapport one would expect to see from two siblings in real life. They're both fantastic, and I think the miracle isn't so much that the script itself is so savvy, but that they have the comic chops to pull it off wonderfully. It's probably safe to assume David and his wife Jane wrote the material for the people who wound up playing most (if not all) of the roles, but David's willingness to throw himself life and limb into the role (and seriously, I find it hard to believe he didn't hurt himself at least a few times) coupled with Kate's ability to make us believe she'd actually put up with a brother this psychotic...it's honestly an achievement. Credit is also due to Paul McGillion as the hapless fiancee, Ryan. He's hilarious, winningly friendly without being obnoxious, and some of his...permutations later in the film are brilliant.

If A Dog's Breakfast has a flaw it's the lack of scope. While I praise that same lack of scope, it also prevents the film from really engaging the viewer as anything more than ninety minutes of whimsy. It's exceptional whimsy, but its weightlessness is palpable at times. It's difficult to fault the movie for succeeding perfectly at what it set out to do, and I wouldn't change a thing about it, so try to figure it this way: the movie is a cake. It's a very delicious cake, it's exactly as good as you want cake to be, but it doesn't change the fact that it's not going to replace a meal anytime soon. I don't think it was intended as much more than a cinematic lark made by good friends and family, and there's nothing at all wrong with that.

So all that said, if you want to see a testament to how much you can do with a little money, a lot of heart, and a lot of ingenuity, or if you just want a good laugh for ninety minutes, you could do a hell of a lot worse than A Dog's Breakfast, and I absolutely recommend it to any film students or filmmakers as a prime example of how much you can do with a supremely, sublimely simple concept. Loved it.

- Dustin Sklavos

All written content and colored rating system copyright Dustin Sklavos 2009. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce without permission.