Film Review: The Dog Lover

Atrocious drama that seems to exist merely to discredit legit animal-rights organizations like PETA.
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Presumably, most animal lovers this weekend will be going to see a certain high-profile animated movie about their beloved pets—it’s probably less than a coincidence that this animal-rights drama is being released the same weekend.

For those who want to learn where some of those lovable pooches come from, you’re probably better off reading a book then wasting any time on this corny drama that sends mixed messages about animal rights and those sworn to protect them.

Yet another film that claims to be “based on a true story,” The Dog Lover starts out as a documentary about rescue dogs before we’re introduced to the film’s hero, Sara Gold (Allison Paige), and her partner Trevor (Michael King) through a video of their daring rescue of dogs from a “puppy mill.”

As the star employee of the activist group United Animal Protection Agency (UAPA), Sara is assigned to go undercover as a veterinary student to infiltrate the dog-breeding farm of one Daniel Holloway (James Remar) to find proof his dogs are being mistreated. Sara stays with the conservative Holloway and his family, getting close with his older son Will (Jayson Blair) in a way that might compromise her mission.

While Sara does see all sorts of animal cruelty taking place, none of it is at the Holloways’ breeding farm, though she’ll soon learn that the UAPA has an agenda that goes against their claims of wanting to do what’s best for the dogs.

It’s hard to know where to even begin with something that starts off merely as a bad movie and transitions into something that’s almost a slap in the face to people who are actively trying to protect animal rights. Directed and co-written by French filmmaker Alex Ranarivelo (Born2Race), The Dog Lover is an idealistic film with a specific message it’s trying to relay, and it goes for the bare minimum in storytelling to tell it, making it hard to determine whether the movie is supposed to be for organizations that protect animal rights or against them.

At first, this merely seems like an amateurish drama with badly written, unnatural dialogue and a cast that does little to help. Few of the actors have much chemistry, some of them seeming to be non-actor friends of the filmmakers doing them a favor.

The biggest name in the cast is Lea Thompson from the Back to the Future movies as Holloway’s wife, but if you’re seeing the movie for her, you’re likely to be disappointed, not only due to her having such a small role, but also that she’d stoop so low as to be involved with such questionable project.

Ranarivelo goes out of his way to create a sense of danger in Sara’s mission—every time Sara starts nosing around, she’s caught by a different member of the Holloway family—though that tension quickly subsides as we’re soon back to more scenes of stilted dialogue.

Just when you think the film has reached its nadir, the Holloways’ young daughter is threatened by a large dog, a scene that comes from out of nowhere. When her father defends her by brutally hitting the dog with a shovel, you’ll be more shocked to learn this is, in fact, the turning point for the movie to finally reveal its true colors.

The UAPA uses that video as evidence to raid the Holloway farm, Trevor turns out to be a militaristic zealot trying to free all dogs from their “slavery,” and it becomes evident the UAPA just wants to get a government policy through Congress that would destroy the dog-breeding industry altogether. By the time you realize you’ve been suckered into the film’s conservative anti-PETA claptrap, it’s too late, because by then you might actually care about the Holloways as much as Sara does.

If the movie wasn’t already quite boring, it then continues onto the Holloways’ trial, getting very technical about viruses and vaccines in a way that’s likely to lose anyone who has gotten that far merely in the hopes of seeing a few cute puppies.

At best, The Dog Lover is like a bad Hallmark Channel or Lifetime movie, so bland and vanilla it would be inhumane to canines to call it a “dog” of a movie.

Click here for cast and crew information.