Year of the Dog


Generally favorable reviews - based on 31 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 26 out of 31
  2. Negative: 1 out of 31

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Critic Reviews

  1. I mean no impertinence when I say that as a portrait of love and grief, writer-director Mike White's exceptional film Year of the Dog deserves the same admiration accorded Joan Didion's exceptional memoir "The Year of Magical Thinking."
  2. 91
    White's gently perceptive film is a funny, poignant, emotionally honest minor-key character study.
  3. 89
    Dern is hilarious as the obsessive sister-in-law, Sarsgaard plays oddball dog-man to perfection, Pais is perfectly awkward as Peggy's nervous boss, Reilly rocks the subtle humor of Peggy's hunting-obsessed neighbor, and Shannon gives a breakout performance.
  4. 88
    It may sound as if first-time director White is having his fun at the expense of introverted, asocial people who prefer the company of cats and dogs and gravitate toward animal-rights activism because the very idea of dealing with human problems requires an empathy they can't muster. But empathy is exactly what makes the film work.
  5. Until Year of the Dog, I've never seen a movie where someone obsessed over a puppy.
  6. The conceit of the movie is that everyone is obsessed by something and never really tunes into anybody else.
  7. Reviewed by: Claudia Puig
    An engaging tragicomedy, exploring the consequences of single-minded fervor in a humorous and humane fashion.
  8. 75
    Shannon is wonderful as a woman pushed over the edge by the death of her pet in Year of the Dog, a very low-key, well-acted dramedy.
  9. While some may be put off by Peggy's wild-eyed mania, and the film's broadly comic tone, Shannon makes this lost spirit strikingly sympathetic.
  10. Reviewed by: Ethan Alter
    Year of the Dog would have benefited from a stronger hand behind the camera (White's general aesthetic basically involves cribbing heavily from Wes Anderson and Jared Hess), but as a showcase for Shannon, it ends up being strangely moving.
  11. In Year of the Dog, there are dark moments that are both strangely poignant and bizarrely hilarious. The ending took me by surprise. In a way it's a cheat, a redemption that arrives out of nowhere. But it's also a cosmic joke, a perfectly funny, sincere salute to dog and pet-lovers everywhere.
  12. One of those quirky little movies that you marvel ever got made.
  13. A rough little comedy of tone. White, making his directorial debut, asks if the search for self is still heroic when the discoveries are unpleasant.
  14. 70
    Year of the Dog is an enjoyable, patchy, rambling affair, a series of bittersweet comic sketches strung together with thin wire.
  15. Overall, Year of the Dog evinces an appealing sentimentality without being maudlin or only puppy-dog cute.
  16. Reviewed by: John Anderson
    A satisfying and funny, if ironic, comedy intended for lovers of both the beast and/or sophisticated laughs.
  17. 70
    So oppressive is Peggy's world -- Year of the Dog is the best evocation I've seen of how much worse it is to be depressed in a sunny climate -- that when she finally loses control, it feels more like catharsis than madness.
  18. It's funny ha-ha but firmly in touch with its downer side, which means it's also funny in a kind of existential way.
  19. 70
    With pathos competing equally against the often pungent laughs for the audience's attention, it's a movie that is both unsettling and amusing, most comparable to "Chuck & Buck" in tone.
  20. Reviewed by: Dana Stevens
    It's the most thorough portrait yet of the world according to White.
  21. 70
    White delivers another weirdly dark-but-funny story.
  22. 70
    Despite the gimmicky direction and a disappointing climax, this is a distinctive and unsettling comedy.
  23. White throws in a dog-in-peril shot to ensure the audience's sympathies. The ploy works, perhaps too well, turning Year of the Dog less into the askew character study it wants to be than a showcase of lovable-dog shots.
  24. The ironic, cheery-bland tone, the two-dimensional characters and episodic structure, say "comedy," while the events in the script say "bipolar depression."
  25. 63
    Shannon gives the movie its inner life. Maybe the movie will give her back her comedy career.
User Score

Generally favorable reviews- based on 25 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Positive: 7 out of 13
  2. Negative: 3 out of 13
  1. AndrewK.
    May 27, 2007
    Wow. I can't believe how harsh some of these reviews were. I consider myself to be a good judge when it comes to films. I guess I can Wow. I can't believe how harsh some of these reviews were. I consider myself to be a good judge when it comes to films. I guess I can see some of the things that people are saying, but I loved this film myself. Molly Shannon, while I worried at first that I wouldn't be able to take her serious due to her facial expressions reminding me so much of her silly characters on SNL, really surprised the hell out of me. She was amazing. I hope that this will bring her more work, because she is very good. I completely related to the way she would be the good listener with everyone she knew even though she really wasn't as interested in them as she pretended to be. Maybe that sounds shallow of me, but I think that a lot of people make their problems out to be so important to the people around them and sometimes all you can do is nod and humor them. Maybe some of the characters were a little one dimensional, but I don't really expect much more depth in these peripheral characters. I think the point is that she's not really all that interested in them because they actually do lack depth. Needless to say, I thought that Laura Dern and Peter Saarsgard and Regina King and Josh Pais did a great job. They were all irritating in some way, especially Laura Dern, who reminded me of some of the parents my mother has to put up with as a teacher. I can see how some would compare Mike White's directorial style to Jarod Hess. It did have a Napoleon Dynamite type feel, and it even featured one of the same songs near the end of the film. This was a very sweet movie and I think that the statements it makes about animal cruelty are actually very important and are not meant to be taken as a joke. Molly Shannon's character is very real. I felt great sympathy for her. I don't know what separates the people that don't like this movie from those that do, and so I think that it deserves a shot from all movie lovers. Full Review »
  2. MarkB.
    May 8, 2007
    With all due respect to Lassie, Rin Tin Tin and Benji, the greatest movie canine of all time could hardly be anyone other than Toto from The With all due respect to Lassie, Rin Tin Tin and Benji, the greatest movie canine of all time could hardly be anyone other than Toto from The Wizard of Oz. Consider: millions and millions of moviegoers, both committed and casual, recognize him by name from his one and only film, and Judy Garland sings "Over the Rainbow" (considered by the American Film Institute and many fans to be the greatest movie SONG of all time) specifically to him. And yet, for the ten minutes (or less) that he's onscreen, Year of the Dog's Pencil the beagle offers Toto some very fierce competition! Pencil is the light in the life of Peggy (Molly Shannon), a sweet, kindhearted, eager-to-please but somewhat socially awkward homebody who's not much more than a background figure in the lives of her relatives, coworkers and friends. (In fact, if a movie had been made about Peggy's numbers-obsessed boss Robin, her husband-hungry buddy Layla or her smug sister Bret and family, Peggy wouldn't even qualify as a supporting character; she'd only appear in one or two expository scenes and what we'd mostly see of her would be the back of her head.) Pencil is the center of Peggy's universe, and vice versa; when Pencil dies accidentally early on, it's no surprise at all that Peggy's life will be totally shattered, because Peggy is for the first time forced to realize what she was only peripherally aware of before: that without Pencil, Peggy really HAS no life. (When, later on, she relates her discovery that a certain very specific word is the first one she's heard that truly describes her, lumps simultaneously grow in throats all throughout the arthouse.) I've always really liked Shannon, whose strangely endearing nervous energy made her SNL movies A Night at the Roxbury and Superstar a lot less of a viewing chore, but she's phenomenal here: without begging for sympathy or striking a false note, she negotiates all the steps from ripping your heart out to just plain scaring it out of you. Shannon's work is to 2007 what Maggie Gyllenhaal's portrayal of a paroled substance abuser trying to reclaim her child was to Sherrybaby in 2006: a remarkably subtle, nuanced interpretation of a terrific woman's role that nevertheless could have, with the wrong actress, lent itself to all kinds of showboating and scenery-chewing but absolutely never does here. (And unfortunately, the Motion Picture Academy will undoubtedly pay as much attention to Shannon's work as it did to Gyllenhaal's. C'mon, Oscar: Shannon manages to be utterly believable here in spite of the fact that in real life she's allergic to dogs! Doesn't she deserve some recognition for sacrificing for her art?) Mike White's script and direction are completely worthy of his lead actress: he satirizes the people in Peggy's world without ever demonizing them (even the boorish hunter who's her next door neighbor); he charts Peggy's journey from despair to emptiness to social involvement to fanaticism to madness to ambiguity with a mathematical precision that only seems casually observed...and his much-criticized "let's have everybody seem to talk to the audience" method of staging and camera placement isn't an indie affectation at all, but the absolutely perfect means to depict Peggy's relationship and status with her acquaintances: except in a handful of shots in which others share the frame with her, Peggy is perpetually isolated. While her devotion to a cause is certainly admirable up to a point, it's hard not to wonder if (as is often the case with people who join extremist groups or religious cults) Peggy would've immersed herself so deeply into veganism and animal rights if, at the time she needed them so desperately, Layla, Bret or anyone else had taken an afternoon off to spend with her, or let her cry on their shoulder as long as she needed to, or just really listened to her. The beauty of Year of the Dog is that even though its central themes largely and necessarily deal with how we treat or mistreat animals, at the end of the day it really made me want to treat PEOPLE with more kindness. Full Review »
  3. ChadS.
    May 6, 2007
    And finally, when "Year of the Dog" is on the verge of caricaturizing vegans as hopeless neurotics, the filmmaker dramatizes a sort of And finally, when "Year of the Dog" is on the verge of caricaturizing vegans as hopeless neurotics, the filmmaker dramatizes a sort of disclaimer about animal-rights activists not all being maladjusted loner types like Peggy(Molly Shannon), as we can also see "normal" people on that same bus(en route to a rally), in a closing scene similar to the one in Todd Solondz's "Welcome to the Dollhouse". Peggy isn't alienated to the extent that Dawn Wiener was in the Solondz film, but this could all change, since her vegetarianism is now formally politicized by her forthcoming participation in a public demonstration. Peggy's newfound moral impetus of non-conformity with the social norms(she once aspired towards) will aggravate her social retardation to a degree that platonic relationships(like the benign, but functional interactions she enjoys with her office co-workers), not only potential romantic ones, will elude her as well. When Newt(Peter Saarsgard) indoctrinates Peggy into veganism, he is taking away one of the last vestiges of common ground she shares with ordinary people(which is a natural love for junk food; their reaction to the soy cupcakes is an indicator of Peggy's future). "Year of the Dog" should've gone in a direction more organic to its "Wait Until Dark"-like scene of near-violence, but this barbed comedy is still a pretty grim affair, made all the more sadder by Peggy's heart-on-a-sleeve optimism. Full Review »