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It’s not a coincidence that the title of Kasi Brown and Brandon Walter‘s debut feature recalls a certain movie thriller directed by Ben Affleck. Depicting the misadventures of a Los Angeles couple who go on a desperate search for their kidnapped Yorkie, Gone Doggy Gone is a farce in which the emotional stakes amusingly seem just as high as those in Gone Baby Gone.
The filmmakers play Abby and Elliott, whose workaholic tendencies have resulted in their marriage going stale, with the former’s attentions mainly directed towards their adorable pooch Laila. When the pair decide to take a trip to San Francisco they leave their object of affection in the hands of their trusty dogsitter Jill (Shaina Vorspan), who considers Laila to be her “BFF.”
Read more 2015 Summer Movie Guide
Unfortunately, just as the socially maladroit young woman has been entrusted with the bonnet-wearing canine her life hits the skids. Dumped by her slacker boyfriend and fired from her temp job, she sends the owners an anonymous ransom video featuring a blindfolded and manacled Laila. Eventually the couple gets wise as to the culprit’s true identity and, accompanied by Abby’s pot-smoking, cougar friend Kat (Kate Connor), they embark on a road trip across the Southwest in pursuit of the fleeing Jill.
Along the way they enlist the services of Dan (Jeff Sloniker), a hapless private investigator desperate to please his employer/father (veteran character actor Richard Riehle) with whom he co-stars in a cheesy TV commercial. But things take an even more complicated turn when the unkempt gumshoe develops a crush on the woman he’s trailing even as a newly bonded Abby and Elliott rediscover their sexual mojo.
The clever premise eventually loses steam as the convoluted plot unfolds, with the preponderance of wacky episodes and the broadness of the characterizations reaping diminishing comic returns. But there are still plenty of laughs along the way, many of them supplied by the hilarious turns by Vorspan as the emotionally fragile dognapper and Sloniker as the lovestruck PI. Brown also displays a flair for physical comedy as the high-strung Abby who’s invested all of her emotions in her beloved dog.
The low-budget film looks terrific thanks to Garrett O’Brien‘s crisp cinematography. But the real star of the proceedings is undeniably the lovable canine performer whose deadpan facial expressions make the chaos surrounding her all the more funny.
Production: Buzzworm Films
Cast: Shaina Vorspan, Kate Connor, Kasi Brown, Brandon Walter, Richard Riehle, Jeff Sloniker, Marsha Waterbury
Directors/screenwriters: Kasi Brown, Brandon Walter
Producers: Kasi Brown, Brandon Walter, Rebecca Hu, Adriane Zaudke
Director of photography: Garrett O’Brien
Production designer: Scott M. Evans
Editor: Melanie Annan
Costume designer: Brianna Francis
Composer: Thomas Vincent
Casting: Meghan Lennox
Not rated, 89 minutes
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