Despite three title changes and a deceptively sweet poster, there’s just no getting around the premise of this provocative indie, a surprise hit at Sundance last year. Yup, it’s the one where the girl pleasures her pet pooch.
It’s the sort of USP that will either have audiences frothing in anticipation of an art house Animal House or dismissing it as perverse, gross-out tat. The pleasant surprise is that it’s neither. Amy (Melinda Page Hamilton) may have “blown her dog” (off-screen, we might add) as a student but she’s now a respectable primary school teacher whose sexual depravity only goes as far as telling her fiancé John (Bryce Johnson) he has a nice penis. The puppy love comes to light when John pressures Amy to spill her darkest secrets during an awkward visit to her strait-laced parents. He’s utterly appalled but Amy’s ear-wigging stoner brother (the scene-nabbing Jack Plotnick) is delighted to find filth on his perfect sis, gleefully announcing at breakfast that he “knows something dirty that Amy did...”
Playing like a low-budget and admittedly inferior cross between Meet The Parents and Annie Hall, Sleeping Dogs is less about doing it doggy style and more about the importance of mystery in relationships. And on the flipside, it wades into the horrors of workplace infatuation, parental adulation and sibling rivalry. The confession is a trigger for soul-searching and revelations, with everything Amy takes as solid in her life (mum and dad’s sexual history, John’s open-mindedness, her brother’s lack of wits) becoming unglued. And it’s all laced with comic appeal and tenderness – heck, it’s practically a date movie.
That’s not to say it isn’t rough around the edges, only patchily convincing (the script and unknown actors hit the odd false note) and at the mercy of low-budget sound, production values and unimaginative, static camerawork. But fair play to ex-Police Academy fool Goldthwait (he played Muppet-voiced nutter Zed): it’s not half bad for a flick that was filmed in 16 days on a pawnshop-funded shoestring – and with a committed crew who crashed on the DP’s floor.
Neither the filthy toss teenage boys might hope for nor a certified gem, this is nonetheless engagingly skewed entertainment. At the very least, it makes a change from the kind of formulaic relationship flick whose idea of daring is to have Jennifer Aniston play bitchy.
A bestiality rom-com with unexpected charm. Not quite the dog's bollocks, but certainly no dog's dinner either.