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How to Kill Your Neighbor's Dog (2000)

Cast: Kenneth Branagh, Kenneth Branagh, Jared Harris, more...
Director: Michael Kalesniko, Michael Kalesniko
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Studio: 20th Century Fox
Genre: Comedies, Drama, Independent, Black Comedy
Running Time: 108 min.
Subtitles: Spanish
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Somewhere in L.A., Peter (Kenneth Branagh), a washed-up British playwright, struggles to duplicate his past glory as he surfs a foul-smelling tide of disenchantment. His wife, Melanie (Robin Wright Penn), manages to maintain an optimistic outlook even as she longs for the baby that her husband is hesitant to help her conceive. When Peter befriends Amy (Suzi Hofrichter), a neighborhood girl who has mild cerebral palsy, their friendship softens him to the idea of fatherhood and propels Melanie's maternal yearnings into hyperdrive. As if baby fever weren't enough, Peter is plagued by a seemingly benevolent stalker (Jared Harris), his neighbors' incessantly noisy dog, and the flighty cast and crew of his latest play. ~ Rebecca Flint Marx, All Movie Guide

GreenCine Says: With How to Kill Your Neighbor's Dog one not only has to get past the rather loathsome title but a fairly uneven first act as well. But stick with it, as some wonderful, sharply written scenes are your reward, as is the sight of one of Kenneth Branagh's best performances of the last few years and a fine supporting cast lead by the always underappreciated Robin Wright Penn. Penn plays his patient wife, desperate to become pregnant, but unfortunately married to the curmudgeonly British expat Branagh - who is far more concerned with his play-in-progress than the idea of children running around mucking things up. The black comedy comes uneasily at times, but the human observations and a realistic portrayal of the pains of playwriting (in Los Angeles, especially) flow more freely. His evolving friendship with the neighbor's young daughter could have been cloying (and only is once, in their tearful final scene) but instead rings true; amusing, too, are Branagh's attempts to notate her "dialogue" to try to improve one of his own child characters. That fine cast also includes Jared Harris, lovely as the well-meaning stalker (except for one horrible moment), Peter Riegert, a virtually unrecognizable Lynn Redgrave as Penn's ailing mother (who can't seem to recognize her son-in-law), and Daniel Stern in a hilarious cameo as a bitter screenwriter.

The film will surprise you - particularly, again, after an occasionally clunky first act in which you will be hard-pressed not to loathe his character. But this is a play worth staying with until the final curtain. -- Craig Phillips

GreenCine Member Reviews

Sometimes very funny by Texan99 September 5, 2010 - 2:17 PM PDT
I enjoyed this in a mild way. It had bits and pieces that were quite funny or affecting without ever really coming together for me. Sometimes the director's archness was so deliberate that it was offputting. Still, it's full of actors that I very much enjoy.

GreenCine Member Rating

(Average 6.22)
23 Votes
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Movies About Writers
Some of the best films about writers, although very few get the writer's life exactly write, er, right. Writers, we're a mopey, lonely lot according to most films. (Well, that part's accurate.)

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