Critics' Pick

Gone Doggy Gone (NR)

Action/Adventure 89 min. July 7, 2015
By Chris Packham
Back in the 1980s, it was possible to shoot a tiny film on a slight budget as a calling card for studio executives, a way for directors to say, "Imagine what I could do with real money." A few of these underbudgeted films, such as The Terminator, even broke through to popular audiences. Does this still work in an atomized video landscape? Well, director Colin Trevorrow's Safety Not Guaranteed landed him Jurassic World, so with any luck writers/directors/leads Kasi Brown and Brandon Walter can get some attention with the hilarious Gone Doggy Gone. It's about Abby and Elliott Harmon, a bored, materialistic couple whose emotional lives revolve around their tiny dog, Laila. When their troubled dogsitter, Jill, steals the dog, the couple pursues her across the Southwest.

It's remarkable that Brown and Walter pit a half-dozen sharply observed characters against one another in a film with no bad guys. Everyone is emotionally broken in some way, and much of the comedy derives from their mutual obliviousness to other people's pain, even when it's pitched at loopy comic heights. Jill dognaps Laila, the one creature that loves her, on the day that her boyfriend dumps her and she loses her job. The incompetent private eye the Harmons hire to find their dog is trying to please his overbearing father. And the Harmons themselves, numbed by their emotional distance, grow closer as they pursue Jill. The film's sweetness, its story line and the script's cartoony characters recall Raising Arizona, though Gone Doggy Gone isn't as tightly structured. But, being looser, it has a little more room to breathe.
Kasi Brown, Brandon Walter Shaina Vorspan, Kate Connor, Kasi Brown, Brandon Walter, Richard Riehle, Jeff Sloniker, Marsha Waterbury, Edward Winters Kasi Brown, Brandon Walter Rebecca Hu, Adriane Zaudke Indican Pictures

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