'Patrick': Film Review

Even dog lovers' patience will be tested.

A young woman finds her life turned upside down when she inherits a rambunctious pug in Mandi Fletcher's comedy.

Let me establish something straight off. I love dogs. I really do. When I was growing up, my best friend was my dog. Walking down city streets, I happily pet any pooch whose owner will let me. And I've been known to cry more than once at movies revolving around dogs, especially when it ends with a canine death.

But there's a limit. A film has to have something going for it, like a plot, instead of just relying on an adorable animal. That's sadly not the case with the British comedy Patrick, which seems to think that all you need to keep an audience captivated is endless close-ups of its titular character. The whole enterprise seems like an advertisement for the breed, the ownership of which will apparently improve your life immeasurably while making a holy mess of it.

Despite the title, the central character of the pic directed and co-written by Mandi Fletcher (Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie) is actually human, albeit of the one-dimensional variety: Sarah (Beattie Edmondson), a slightly daffy schoolteacher who's just been left by her boyfriend and whose future seems a dead end. Sarah's world suddenly turns upside down when her grandmother dies and unexpectedly bequeaths her Patrick, a pug whose facial expressions range from mischievous to quizzical. And we get to study them a lot, because the animal gets more intense camera scrutiny than Glenn Close in The Wife. It's hard to tell whether he's more interested in a treat or an Oscar.

Sarah has no interest in dog ownership, especially since her apartment lease strictly forbids it. Cue the predictable farcical complications as time and time again we see how naughty Patrick is. He steals food out of the refrigerator. He runs after a herd of deer. He wreaks havoc both at Sarah's home and at work. And he eventually causes her to be homeless after the landlord discovers his presence.

But wait, Patrick does provide some benefits. He forces Sarah to get some exercise, since she has to walk him in the park. And lo and behold, that's where she starts meeting men, including the affable Ben (Tom Bennett, Love and Friendship) and the hunky Oliver (Ed Skrein, Deadpool), the latter of whom, in one of the film's underwhelming plot twists, turns out to be a veterinarian. Because if you believe what happens in movies, hotness is a requirement for veterinary school.

The plot's most dramatic elements are Sarah's budding romance with Oliver, who turns out to be a jerk before he turns out not to be one; Patrick getting lost after accidentally boarding a boat that sails off; and Sarah getting roped into participating in a charity run for which she's physically ill-equipped. Suffice it to say that tension proves non-existent. More importantly, nothing in the pic is as funny as it presumably intends to be, including the brief appearances by Edmondson's real-life mother, Jennifer Saunders. And if you're guessing that by the end of the film Sarah learns to love the four-legged interloper who's changed her life for the better, you would be correct.

Edmondson manages to make her stereotypical character appealing, as does Bennett as possible love interest Ben. But all of the human performers mostly look thoroughly resigned to the fact that they're being upstaged by their canine co-star who probably scored a bigger trailer.

Production companies: Wagging Tail Productions, Fred Films
Distributor: Screen Media Films
Cast: Beattie Edmondson, Ed Skrein, Tom Bennett, Gemma Jones, Jennifer Saunders
Director: Mandie Fletcher
Screenwriters: Vanessa Davies, Paul de Vos, Mandie Fletcher
Producers: Vanessa Davies, Paul de Vos, Sue Latimer, James Spring
Executive producers: Tim Smith, James Swarbrick, Phil Hunt, Compton Ross, James Scott, Adrian Politowski, Brian O'Shea, Tracey McCarrick, Giovanna Trischitta, Norman Merry, Peter Hampden, Jonathan Feuer, Paolo Monaci Freguglia, Patrizia Fersurella, Yvette Hoyle, Ciro Orsini, Geraldine East, Peter Kandiah
Director of photography: Chris Goodger
Production designer: Harry Banks
Editor: Matthew Tucker
Composer: Michael Price
Costume designer: Jenny Beavan
Casting: Alex Johnson

94 minutes