Wiener-Dog movie full length review - Smug, juvenile and lazy film-making, don't waste your time
In a year that's been sorely lacking in films of any substance and creative or emotional depth, I was really hoping to be satisfied with this one.
I let the endorsement of it being screened at Sundance (what were they thinking?) and an impressive roster of actors seduce me into going to see this regrettable and tasteless pablum.
Before you scoff at my condemnation of it, let me give you some background. First, I LIKE, in fact LOVE, quirky and even shocking films. I've been a student and fan of cinema my whole life, starting in the 1950's when my dad used to borrow 8 mm projectors from Boston University (where he was an instructor) and screen classic films and documentaries from all over the world on our dining room wall. I took film courses in college and even studied filmmaking and produced my own short films. I'm not an aesthetic elitist and will watch just about anything -- my favorites run the gamut from experimental efforts made on a shoestring to big studio extravaganzas.
Yeah, I do have my prejudices and admit that not all highly vaunted films and genres match my taste. But no matter what my personal tastes might be, I do know quality when I see it, and "Weiner Dog" is a lazy piece of cr@p. Yeah, the director used a trash bag full of Film School 101 "I'm so avant garde" clichés to try to appear clever: long pans, off balance static shots, sustained closeups, dysfunctional characters, gross-out imagery that adds nothing to the story, ad nauseam. And mild nausea is the result, at least in this viewer (and the fellow film lover who went with me.) Don't get me wrong -- I don't object to being disturbed by a film. In fact I do appreciate, even relish, a film that's creepy, dysphoric and even violent. One of my favorites last year was Jonathan Glazer's "Under the Skin" (which, by the way, uses many of the same techniques Todd Solondz attempts in "Weiner Dog" but Glazer executes them successfully.)
The fact that "Weiner Dog"s Todd Solondz could not coax effective performances from a roster of such seasoned good actors is a testimony by absence to the importance of directing. The single major accomplishment of this waste of time is that he managed to make veterans like Ellen Burstyn, Danny De Vito and Julie Delpy come off like blundering amateurs, or, at best, B grade hopefuls at an initial blind script read. And the lesser known actors come off even worse. I've seen high school video productions that had better scripts, continuity and more convincing performances. The script, pacing and editing would have earned a C minus in any film class. It's telling that the "climax" vignette with De Vito is a snide put down of film schools. Ironic that Solondz has such a sour grapes attitude towards them -- since he teaches directing. I wouldn't pay this guy to direct a hemorrhoid cream commercial, let alone expect him to teach anything of value.
His Wiki blurb describes him as being "known for his style of dark, thought-provoking, socially conscious satire." Meh. Producing condescending and inane stories that exaggerate stereotypical and cynical views of people with limp dialogue, poor direction and a few grotesque scenes of violence and excrement thrown in for shock value is a lazy, immature and cheap way to get attention. And the dilettantes that fall for this kind of insult to the viewers intelligence deserve to waste their time on it. I won't do so again. Solondz has been added to my list of smug cinematic hacks to avoid.