Review: Sleeping Dogs Lie

It pulls off the not-inconsiderable feat of tackling one of cinema’s last taboo frontiers—bestiality—with sincere sweetness.

Sleeping Dogs Lie
Photo: Roadside Attractions

Bobcat Goldthwait’s Sleeping Dogs Lie pulls off the not-inconsiderable feat of tackling one of cinema’s last taboo frontiers—bestiality—with sincere sweetness, its depiction of the complications arising from human-animal coupling utilized as a prism for a heartfelt examination of the role of honesty in romantic relationships. Having, on an inexplicable whim, orally satisfied her dog during college, Amy (Melinda Page Hamilton) finds her humiliating secret becoming an enormous burden once caring fiancé John (Bryce Johnson) begins stating that he wants their marriage to be marked by total truthfulness—a fact he then demonstrates by confessing to having once eaten a cookie covered in four adolescent boys-worth of ejaculate. Such bawdy sexual humor abounds, but Goldthwait’s film is less a scattershot scatological goof-off than a pleasant rom-com about the reasonable limits of being frank, with Amy attempting, amid crisis with her devoted but strict parents (Geoff Pierson and Bonita Friedericy), meth-smoking younger brother Doug (Jack Plotnick), and attractive co-worker Ed (Colby French), to figure out how much information really is too much. That Sleeping Dogs Lie is ultimately more cute than coarse doesn’t mean that its conclusions aren’t refreshingly unsentimental, its admission that lies can be both beneficial and necessary—and that third-parties who advocate complete candor are usually acting in a hypocritical, and thus ignorable, fashion—contributing to an agreeably pragmatic outlook on life and love. Regardless of this sensible perspective, Goldthwait’s primitive aesthetic (the entire feature was reportedly shot in 16 days, and it shows) and his cast’s blandly likeable performances regularly limit the story’s emotional and comedic wallop. Beginning as a one-note joke before evolving into an earnest illustration of prudent deceitfulness, the film never quite finds a suitable balance between its somewhat conflicting inclinations, proving too dramatically insubstantial to compellingly resonate, and too restrained to be out-and-out hilarious. Meaning that, while it isn’t a dog, it’s also no Shakes the Clown.

 Cast: Melinda Page Hamilton, Bryce Johnson, Geoff Pierson, Colby French, Jack Plotnick, Bonita Friedericy, Brian Posehn, Morgan Murphy  Director: Bobcat Goldthwait  Screenwriter: Bobcat Goldthwait  Distributor: Roadside Attractions  Running Time: 89 min  Rating: R  Year: 2006  Buy: Video

Nick Schager

Nick Schager is the entertainment critic for The Daily Beast. His work has also appeared in Variety, Esquire, The Village Voice, and other publications.

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