Wiener-Dog follows the effects of a single dog in this disjointed comedy
Wiener-Dog is the brain-child of Todd Solondz, an eclectic writer/director with somewhat of a cult following. This new film follows the life of a female dachshund through several owners. Throughout her life she effects different people in different ways, becoming central to the lives of some and playing smaller roles in others.
Her first home is in an up-scale suburban home, pet to a child cancer-survivor who is given our little pooch to help him through his recovery. Wiener-Dog becomes little Remi’s whole world, filling the gap left by a distant father and and overly-blunt mother and guiding him as he’s introduced to questions of life and death. After an honest mistake on Remi’s part, Wiener-Dog becomes deathly ill and is taken to the vet to be put to sleep, another subject that is new to Remi. At this point, Wiener-Dog is liberated from the vet by a sympathetic employee, Dawn, and nursed back to health. Through this caring act, Dawn realizes she is dissatisfied with her life and through her new best-friend is introduced to an old friend who invites her on a spontaneous road trip.
Our protagonist plays an integral part in these first two acts as she helps Remi understand the physical world and enables Dawn to realize how unhappy she was and go on a spontaneous road trip. Wiener-Dog has been a key-player in the plot, tone, and even the score (Remi and Dawn both create little tunes that are layered in much of these initial stories). Unfortunately, her agency ends after she leaves Dawn. After a jarring Intermission that feels out of place and gimmicky, we are introduced to her next owner, a washed-up and depressed film professor. For the rest of the film, our protagonist is merely ornamental, no longer moving the plot or emotional tone forward. She appears to have no part in the story, only making fleeting cameos in the film that began as her story.
For this reason, despite the fact that there were 4 clear stories in this movie, it was really 2 films connected by flimsy strands. While I applaud the difficult subjects, raw style, and heart-warming characters in the first “film,” but there was such a disconnect from the later stories. A musical theme that was built out during the first “film” were forgotten in the second. Our protagonist played an integral role in the first, while being forced to the background in the second. While the first “film” is situationally humorous, the second relies on trivial characters to draw a laugh.
Todd Solondz clearly has a following, given the buzz that was stirred up around his new film but it will only play to a small niche crowd in theaters.