to Kill Your Neighbor's Dog
(2002) - Millennium/Cinerenta/Third Row Center (Artisan)
by Graham Greenlee of The Digital Bits
Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): C+/C/D
Specs and Features
108 mins, R, full frame (1.33:1), single-sided, single layered,
Amaray keep case package, theatrical trailer, film-themed menus,
scene access (28 chapters), languages: English (DD 2.0), subtitles:
doesn't so much want writers, so much as secretaries with a flair
Kenneth Branagh has narrowed his acting range down to two types.
One is the great Shakespearean Branagh, where he spouts out
classical dialogue. The other is where he basically rants on about
everything. In his latest film, Kenneth uses the latter type to
great effect, as a writer who's on the verge of a nervous breakdown.
But since that title has already been used, I guess it's only
obvious to call this film How to Kill You
Peter McGowen (Branagh), a semi-famous playwright, can't get a
break. He's been unsuccessful for the last few years. He's currently
working on his new play, and is tormented by his alcoholic producer
(Peter Reigert), the flamboyant director (David Krumholtz) and the
bad actors. Add to that pressure the failed attempts of his wife
(Robin Wright Penn) to get pregnant, a dangerous stalker and a bad
case of writer's block. And in the night, the only time he can rest,
the neighbor's new dog won't stop barking. Needless to say, Peter is
about to go off the deep end.
Enter into the chaos a new neighbor, a recent divorcee who's
brought along her emotional baggage and a seven-year-old daughter
named Amy (Suzi Hofrichter). Amy suffers from cerebral palsy, and
has been reaching out for a friend in the wake of her parent's
divorce. Peter, unknowingly, becomes very close to the little girl,
and she soon begins to act as a muse for Peter, allowing him to get
past the writer's block, deal amicably with the stalker and come to
terms with his wife's desire to have a child. But, what is he going
to do with that pesky dog?
There are moments where this film reaches absolute hilarity,
including a television interview with Peter answering inane
questions like, "All your latest plays have failed! Do you
think the magic is gone?" Kenneth Branagh owns this movie, as
he should. He drinks, he smokes and he spends most of his time
ranting on in tirades about the smallest of details like he's the UK
version of Woody Allen.
And most of the supporting cast does a very good job. Suzi
Hofrichter is perfectly cast as the little girl. David Krumholtz
comes off a bit TOO flamboyant at first, but earns your love by the
end of the film. And Robin Wright Penn is excellent as Peter's sweet
wife, who can trade barbs as well as he can.
There is however some detractors for the film. Too often it gets
bogged down in trying to use EVERY joke writer/director Michael
Kalesniko can think of. A lot of the material doesn't really work
well into the film. And Lynn Redgrave is TOTALLY misused as Peter's
But even as the film does get a bit long, and the material begins
to drag, something new or funny gets swept in to give it new energy.
It's a bit unfortunate that the film does feel long in some places,
but this is only Kalesniko's first film as a director (he also
co-wrote Howard Stern's Private Parts)
and some credit should be given. With the film's numerous great
moments, I'm sure we'll see more and better out of Kalesniko, and
How to Kill Your Neighbor's Dog
isn't bad for a night's entertainment.
For a film that's practically straight-to-video, the audio and
video is good. Video-wise, the transfer is quite clear with only
marginal amounts of film grain and no compression artifacts.
However, there's an excessive amount of edge enhancement, and my
biggest gripe is that it's in cropped full-frame (when it's obvious
that it was shot in 1.85:1).
The audio sounds pretty average. The dialogue is clear and the score
is balanced. It's only in 2.0, so it's nothing special. Extras are
very thin. You get a bad trailer and Spanish subtitles.
If you've pretty much seen everything else at your video store, or
if you're looking for something a little different, be sure to check
out How to Kill Your Neighbor's Dog.
It's a surprising little movie that's had the few people I know
who've seen it raving about it.