Sleeping Dogs Lie
Directed by Bob Goldthwait
Starring Melinda Page Hamilton and Bryce Johnson
There are three things you should know going in to Sleeping Dogs Lie: First, it’s written and directed by Bob “Bobcat” Goldthwait, the spastically growling comedian who peaked as a freakish bit character in the Police Academy franchise during the mid-’80s. Second, the opening line of Sleeping Dogs Lie reveals the off-color twist at the heart of this romantic comedy, when Amy (Melinda Page Hamilton) admits she performed oral sex on her dog in a fit of boredom during college. Third, despite how sick and disposable this film seems knowing the first two items, the earnest independent effort is actually a quaint genre piece, an eccentric look at what it takes to make a relationship work.
In fact, beyond that startling opening line, it’s too quaint—as in, a little slow, flat and predictable. As conventional as any Tom Hanks/Meg Ryan vehicle—albeit combined with a little Turner & Hooch—it sports all the requisite plot lines of a romantic comedy: a sweet marriage proposal to the closeted canine fellator by her aspiring writer boyfriend (Bryce Johnson), followed by attempts to gain Amy’s psychotic parents’ consent. Against this meet-the-family setup, Amy wrestles with keeping no secrets from her future husband. Like all romantic comedies, it’s a matter of everyone mustering the courage to open up, talk it out and, hopefully, kiss and make up. In this case, sans dogs.
Goldthwait reportedly wrote the script in 72 hours and filmed it over the course of 16 days. Reflecting that DIY approach, none of the actors are remotely recognizable (save for a brief cameo by Brian Posehn, the big dorky guy from “Just Shoot Me”) and the production is sparse. If anything, it adds to the underlying subtlety of this film. Sleeping Dogs Lie strives to be about more than just a string of bestiality jokes, and somewhere beyond its sensational premise is a conventional tale of the struggles surrounding trust and acceptance. Ultimately, it’s something like Amy herself—flawed, capable of a few surprises, and mostly hoping to get by on a hefty helping of honesty and heart.