How many dogs did you see in the movies this year? Sometimes our four-legged friends seem almost absent from feature films, or simply used for cheap jokes or gimmicks. The reigning animal champion this year was Rocket in Guardians of the Galaxy, but dog lovers know even the cutest raccoon can’t compare to our canine companions.
They may not be easy to work with, but if art is supposed to imitate life, dog lovers demand that movies capture the reality of dogs as a part of daily living. We’ve got five movies to highlight for 2014, but first: a couple to caution you about.
You’ve Been Warned—Spoiler Alerts
An example of the heartless canine cameo is 2014’s Godzilla, where a barking dog spots a beast heading for the beach, then seemingly gets swept away in a monster-sized tsunami.
Sex Tape is a cartoonish comedy, so the German shepherd in the film never seems to be hurt…but do we really need to see a dog knocked unconscious, thrown out a window, or off of a treadmill? Another film daring to call itself The Rover shows dogs in cages, having rocks thrown at them, and worse.
Why do you want to make us cry, Hollywood?
Honorable mention goes to a few films for being atypical in their approach: Disaster film Into the Storm shows a dog separated from his owner, but reunited. Finally! Raunchy comedy A Million Ways to Die in the West might, simply by its title, make you think you know what’s going to happen to Amanda Seyfried’s golden retriever Plugger. Fortunately, he’s one of the few characters who doesn’t die in any of those million ways.
What topped our list this year? Let’s look at the top five dog movie moments in 2014:
1. For your heartstrings: Rocco in The Drop
Tom Hardy plays Bob, a lonely bartender who get embroiled in a crime drama, but the real crime is against the badly beaten dog he finds in the trash.
Both Bob and Rocco are each, in many ways, misunderstood breeds. The two become kindred spirits. As Director Michael Roskam says, “When we save a dog, we save ourselves.”
Three dogs had to be used to deal with growth during filming of the picture, so the charm is truly a triple threat. With veteran actor James Gandolfini and actress Noomi Rapace, you’ve got a movie with star power as well as puppy power.
2. For the family: Mr. Peabody in Mr. Peabody and Sherman
How can you not love a family film that postulates a pooch is the smartest being in the world?
In a story of human/canine role reversal, it’s the dog who adopts a human boy, teaching him the history of the world by way of a time machine.
Who wouldn’t want to be that kid, effectively tutored by a vale-dog-torian version of Doctor Who? Pooch puns and wordplay abound in this intelligent expansion of the old cartoon, as a dog and his boy face travels through time and conflict with classmates.
3. For girls’ night: Thunder in The Other Woman
While this comedy doesn’t capitalize on the potential of human stars Leslie Mann and Cameron Diaz, the black and white Great Dane, Thunder, dominates in scenes and provides comfort when the ladies discover they (and Kate Upton) are all being cheated on by the same three-timing jerk.
Those who live with a large dog will appreciate the difficulty Mann’s character has handling her lovable giant.
4. For sheer cuteness: Sandy in Annie
It’s a classic moment of a comic strip and musical that have stood the test of time, and now it’s made all the sweeter by this golden retriever/chow mix, who might be the cutest version of Sandy the dog we’ve ever met. Picturesque moments abound, but a personal favorite is Sandy in the Santa suit.
5. For anger issues: Daisy in John Wick
How can we put this movie on our list, since the premise in the trailer already reveals that this poor beagle passes away in the first act?
Unlike some movies that heartlessly dispose of a dog, little Daisy’s demise is the motivation for the ultra-violent revenge film that follows. Even USA Today declared this little beagle “the cutest dog in the world” and this provides both the motivation for Keanu Reeves’ titular character to come out of retirement and our motivation to put this on our short list of dog moments.
We’ve had movies avenging a kidnapped daughter or murdered wife; isn’t it about time we had the same level of revenge fantasy for a canine companion?
Even if you only watch the first fifteen minutes of the film, the power play between John and Daisy over sleeping arrangements is beyond charming.
The first first 30 seconds of the trailer offer a sampling of cuddling and scampering action. After that…well, the action gets rough.
If you had a favorite dog movie moment in 2014, share it with us! Let’s hope studios and directors keep seeing the benefit of bringing more dogs into their movies. Now we simply need an award for “Best Canine” at Cannes.
Top image is from Twitter.com/AmandaSeyfried.