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Darling Companion DVD Review

Director Lawrence Kasdan’s “Darling Companion” isn’t this critic’s darling.

The premise: After Beth and her daughter Grace rescue an injured dog on the side of the road, Beth decides to adopt the dog much to the displeasure of her husband Joseph. The dog’s rescue also proves beneficial to Grace as she falls in love (and eventually marries) the veterinarian who treated the dog (who they name Freeway). One year later, the film’s attention turns to the marriage of Grace and the vet in Colorado. As Beth sees her daughter and son-in-law venture off on their honeymoon, Beth and Joseph (along with Joseph’s sister, her son and her boyfriend) stay at a vacation home. A joyous occasion soon turns tragic, however, when Freeway gets lost in the Colorado woods. Now, along with the vacation home’s Gypsy caretaker (Carmen), everyone bands together to try and find Freeway. Of course, in typical Kasdan fashion, the family argues, bonds, air out problems, and even learn about one another through this ordeal.

In the 80’s and early 90’s, Lawrence Kasdan put out an impressive body of work that included critically acclaimed features like “Body Heat” and “The Big Chill” as well as scripted masterpieces like “Raiders Of The Lost Ark” and “Return Of The Jedi.” In the past decade, however, he’s disappeared from Hollywood as he has only put out the laughably bad “Dreamcatcher” in 2003. Now, Kasdan is back with an ensemble family drama that harkens back to his beloved work such as “Grand Canyon.” Alas, ‘Darling’ is no classic.

Despite an impressive cast that includes Kevin Kline, Mark Duplass, Elizabeth Moss, Sam Shepard, Dianne Wiest, Diane Keaton and Richard Jenkins, their talents go to waste due to Lawrence and Meg Kasdans’ sappy, meandering screenplay. Instead of crafting a touching, relatable pet centric story, we get a story about whiny, privileged characters that spend 80% of the film walking or driving around Colorado before the predictable happy ending pops up in the final minutes of the film. If the movie was more about the dog ala “Hachi,” it would have been more engrossing. Unfortunately, the dog is barely in the film and is merely a plot device for this character drama. As if that isn’t bad enough, the movie also has a key subplot involving a gypsy woman’s premonitions and a random animated dream sequence that comes out of nowhere.

Summary: Skip “Darling Companion.”

Video/Audio:

While the film looks solid in 2.35:1, the cinematography is rather bothersome. It’s far too clean looking and the excessive amount of close-ups is off-putting. Sure the majestic scenery of Colorado looks impressive, but the whole film just looks too made for TV.

The Dolby Digital 5.1 handles the mostly music and dialogue centric film well. It does the job which is all you can ask for.

Extras:
* Sony trailers and a “Darling Companion” theatrical trailer.
* “On The Red Carpet: New York Premiere”- Lawrence and Meg Kasdan and several cast members briefly chat about the film, the characters, etc.
* “Behind The Scenes: Lawrence Kasdan”- This short featurette features set footage and the cast and crew praising Kasdan.
* “Finding Freeway: Dog People”- The animal trainer and dog handler talk about the two dogs featured in the film. Meg Kasdan talks about the real dog that inspired the film and the other cast members chat about their own dogs.
* “Darling Companion: Behind The Scenes”- A featurette that delves into the story of “Darling Companion.”
* An informative and clearly personal commentary by Lawrence and Meg Kasdan and Kevin Kline.

September 12, 2012 - Posted by | DVD review | , , , , ,

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