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This new Lawrence Kasdan melodrama has enough starpower and narrative control to almost successfull counter its innate cheesiness....
Sony / 104 Minutes / 2012 / Rated PG-13 / Street Date: August 28, 2012
Lawrence Kasdan knows how to assemble a solid cast (The Big Chill) and how to configure vividly personal stories around often cheesy central themes (Grand Canyon), but when the guy nails it, he nails it. This frequent craftsmanship alone is barely enough to give Darling Companion a pulse. This star-studded melodrama never got a full theatrical release, which seems shocking until the movie's Lifetime-Saturday-night plot starts unfolding and it becomes apparent that Kasdan is definitely working with simplistic material.
But 'simplistic' doesn't mean he doesn't shoot and score now and again. Pairing common collaborator Kevin Kline and the always refreshing Diane Keaton together on screen is a def enough narrative move that even if this doggie tale reeks of schmaltz, like Keaton's The Family Stone, sometimes even the most off-put viewers reach to grab a hankie.
You see it coming from a mile away: Beth (Keaton) isn't quite secure in her life as family matron, and her husband (Kline) works too hard for his own good. But when she sees an injured dog on the side of the road and decides to take the pooch home and care for it, that canine lifesaver starts to bring the whole fan-damily together again. And when Freeway the dog goes missing, all hell breaks loose.
It seems impossible to say this about the man who wrote The Empire Strikes Back and Raiders of the Lost Ark, but the problem with Darling Companion is its screenplay. Working with his wife, Meg, Kasdan's narrative here is hampered by schmaltzy shorthand and undernourished character development: everything seems plain and uninspired. But the guy knows how to deliver even with unengaging source material - Darling Companion probably isn't a good film, and upon repeat viewings might fall apart completely, but if you can brush off the histrionic cheese of the thing while it unfolds, you just might be able to get a couple good cries out of it.