A Dog Year is a lean, appealingly straight-forward little movie; it isn’t special, but you come to enjoy its modesty. Jeff Bridges is Jon Katz, a frustrated writer who adopts a once-abused border collie as a way of distracting himself from the turmoil of his self-absorbed, ramshackle life. His family is fed up to the point of writing him off, and the continued blankness of the computer monitor has come to trouble Katz in a fashion that will certainly be familiar to any struggling writer. The collie, Devon, is understandably distrustful of humans, as the prior years of abuse have conditioned him to be fearful, obstinate, and aggressive (he trashes Katz’s house in the usual movie ways). The parallel isn’t subtle and it isn’t meant to be: It’s immediately apparent that Katz and Devon are both damaged goods in need of a little mutual inner-understanding.
The healing that the troubled pair undergoes will be familiar to anyone who has even half of any coming-of-age midlife crisis movie under their belts, but writer-director George LaVoo has a mostly light touch. He doesn’t force-feed you the comfort food, but in the end, Bridges is the film’s secret weapon. The actor, like any true movie star worth his salt, has a gift for glorifying an average person’s problems. (Katz doesn’t shuffle down the street after his dog in his baggy polo shirt like a typical middle-aged, somewhat overweight white guy, but with the unalienable cool of…Jeff Bridges.) Bridges’s mojo is particularly evident in the film’s effective airport-set opening scene, during which Devon, of course, escapes—an inconvenience that eventually inspires Katz to crawl on all fours while confessing his troubles to the gathering crowd while he attempts to bribe the dog with a treat. It’s a ridiculous only-in-the-movies bit that works because Bridges undersells the lines so that the pain registers underneath the show-off bluster, and it’s this respect that allows A Dog Year to be an enjoyable diversion. Bridges fulfills the obligations of the larger-than-life star while capturing the strange, and very real, kinship that people develop with animals.
The DVD's image/sound preservation is fine, though A Dog Year is a pretty traditional made-for-TV movie aesthetically. The colors are a little soft, but that is probably true to the original presentation of the film on HBO. The sound is fine but entirely unremarkable as well.
A typical quickie behind-the-scenes featurette with George LaVoo, Jeff Bridges, and the real Jon Katz.
An okay presentation of an okay picture featuring a characteristically appealing Jeff Bridges performance.