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  • 18
  • Comedy, Drama
  • 2006
  • 89 mins

Sleeping Dogs

Sleeping Dogs

Synopsis

Bobcat Goldthwait's third directorial feature shows that sometimes the truth is better swallowed down than spat out

About

Bobcat Goldthwait is best known as the unhinged acting phenomenon of the 1980s whose grating, cartoonish voice and childish mannerisms out-weirded everybody else in whatever sub-John Hughes teen comedy or Police Academy sequel he was appearing in. Yet he is also an estimable (if equally unusual) writer-director, and his debut Shakes The Clown (1992), about the teetering misadventures of a crapulous children's entertainer who - heh heh - hates children, earned itself wide-mouthed respect from the critics, and would go on to influence such misanthropic favourites as Bad Santa (as well as the lyrics to REM's 'Binky the Doormat'). Still, in its own time Shakes was just too jaw-droppingly outrageous to find anything like a large viewing public.

Cut to the noughties - post Monica Lewinski, post 'South Park', post Abu Ghraib - and folk are not so easily offended. So for his third feature Sleeping Dogs, Goldthwait reserves all his most shocking material for the opening sequence, and then spends the rest of the film scooping up and sorting through the debris. We learn at the outset how, bored and alone one evening, 18-year-old Amy (Hamilton) locked the door to her student digs and proceeded, on a wild whim, to suck off her pet dog Rufus. Wisely, Amy resolves never to tell anyone about her moment of madness - but years later, under pressure to share her darkest secrets with her fiancé John (Johnson), she finally reveals all one weekend while introducing him to her adoring parents (Pierson and Friedericy) and misfit brother (Plotnick). And once this dog has broken loose from its kennel, it proves impossible to put back, with confronting consequences for all.

Sleeping Dogs is a peculiar viewing experience. It starts off with an event trashily transgressive enough to make even John Waters blush, and then fashions from its repercussions a surprisingly gentle human story, as much a drama as a comedy, with not even a hint of the kind of gross-out humour that either its initial premise, or indeed its Meet The Parents-style second act, might suggest. In fact Goldthwait's focus is on the perils of honesty and the importance of lying in any successful relationship, whether between lovers or family. In short, Sleeping Dogs is perhaps the most tasteful and sensitive film ever to have begun with human-to-canine fellatio.

Goldthwait has assembled an ensemble of characters who are quirky, but always believably so, and dramatises the way that duplicity and delusion lie at the heart of their fragile cohesion. It is the sort of film that will both open up and close down conversations between couples who have seen it together. The wit of the screenplay and the charm of the performances go some way to helping Sleeping Dogs transcend its obvious budgetary constraints - but Goldthwait fans may be disappointed that the man himself does not have a cameo.

Cast & Connections

  • Actor: Brian Posehn, Melinda Page Hamilton, Colby French, Steve Agee, Geoff Pierson, Morgan Murphy, Jack Plotnick, Bryce Johnson, Bonita Friedericy
  • Director: Bobcat Goldthwait
  • Screen Writer: Bobcat Goldthwait
  • Producer: Marty Pasetta Jr.
  • Photographer: Ian S. Takahashi
  • Composer: Gerald Brunskill

In a nutshell

This low-budget comedy-drama may not have the glossiest of coats, but nor is it the dog you might be expecting.

by Anton Bitel

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