Diane Lane's Oscar nomination for Unfaithful looks less deserved with each winsome chick-flick she foists upon an unsuspecting public. Under The Tuscan Sun was bland enough, but Must Love Dogs beats it with its thoroughly unexceptional tale of an unhappily divorced teacher torn between one of her pupil's parents (Dermot Mulroney) and the quirky boat-builder she meets online (John Cusack). Sprightly supporting turns notwithstanding, Gary David Goldberg's fluff-fest is more sitcom than rom-com as it trots tediously towards its preordained conclusion.
Eight months on from an acrimonious split, thirtysomething divorcee Sarah Nolan (Lane) is still too bruised to look for a replacement. Meddlesome sister Carol (Elizabeth Perkins) has other ideas, though, putting her details on the internet and lining up a series of potential suitors. One of them is Jake Anderson (Cusack), a similarly lost soul who spends his evenings watching Doctor Zhivago on a loop. Can they find true love? Not if skirt-chasing Bob (Mulroney) has anything to do with it...
"CUSACK IN PARTICULAR SEEMS TO BE UNHAPPY"
With Christopher Plummer stealing every scene he's in as Lane's randy Irish dad and Stockard Channing bringing humour and pathos to her role as his latest conquest, the central trio have to work overtime to keep us interested in their formulaic characters. Cusack in particular seems to have embellished his role with an assortment of verbal quirks that suggest he wasn't too happy with what was on the page. Alas, there's little any of them can do with material so slight you wonder that it doesn't dissolve in the projector.