While this isn’t one of Todd Solondz’s best movies, Wiener-Dog does have some moments that are among his best.
The movie follows the life of a wiener dog as it passes from owner to owner, resulting in four separate stories.
Story number one involves a child cancer survivor, Remi (Keaton Nigel Cooke) receiving the dog as a gift from his dad (Tracy Letts), much to the chagrin of his mom (Julie Delpy). The dog helps Remi to come out of his shell, but this is Solondz territory we are in, and things couldn’t possibly end happily for the family. An incident involving a granola bar lands the dachshund at the vet, and the dog is kidnapped, ironically enough, by Dawn Wiener (Greta Gerwig).
Fans of Solondz might remember Welcome to the Dollhouse, which featured a bullied teenager named Dawn Weiner played by Heather Matarazzo. Matarazzo turned down the opportunity to play the character again, so Gerwig stepped in. Shortly after adopting the dog, she meets Brandon, the bully from Dollhouse (this time played by Keiran Culkin). This portion of the film stands as a sequel to Dollhouse, and is one of the movie’s better stretches.
Danny DeVito then shows up as the next owner in the dog’s life. DeVito is decent as a disgruntled film professor looking to sell a screenplay.
Finally the dog winds up with Nana (Ellen Burstyn), who names the dog Cancer and endures a horrific visit from her granddaughter (Zosia Mamet). This segment of the movie features the film’s best moment, a vision of Nana’s where she visits with many versions of her young self. It’s wonderfully funny and nasty when young Nana introduces all the people she could’ve become had she done a few things differently. Solondz has a gift for mirth, and he achieves mirth bliss in this sequence.
Overall, the movie is a mixed bag, but Solondz fans will find plenty to like, including a fun intermission. Dog fans might get upset by a film that shows a dachshund stricken with diarrhea after a granola bar, and much lousier things later in the movie.
Gerwig is good as Dawn Wiener, although a return for Matarazzo would’ve been interesting. Fans of Dollhouse will remember that Wiener-Dog was the bully name bestowed upon her by Brandon all those years ago. The two have a much nicer time in this movie. A nicer time, but still weird and dark.