Wiener Dog: A Dark Comedy


Wiener Dog starring Danny Devito released by Amazon Pictures.

Fabian Brims, Staff Writer

July is ‘National Hot Dog Month’, so what a great month to have a movie called ‘Wiener Dog’ coming to the big screen. The movie written and directed by Todd Solondz is an episodic, dark-humor comedy that tells four different stories that have one thing in common: an innocent little dachshund. It stars Ellen Burstyn, Danny DeVito, Julie Delpy and Kieran Culkin and will be distributed by Amazon Pictures.

In the first story a father (Tracy Letts) gives his son, a cancer survivor, a little dachshund as a present, who he names ‘Wiener Dog’. His mother (Julie Delpy) struggles to find answers to her son’s continuous questions about his pet’s life. After the kid feeds the dog a granola bar it gets sick, and the parents immediately regret the present and bring the dog to the veterinarian to have it put down. There the second story starts, when the veterinary assistant (Greta Gerwig) takes the sick dog home to take care of it. While she’s buying dog food, she runs into an old classmate (Kieran Culkin) and the two go on a road trip together to visit his brother to deliver some bad news. After a short (and quite funny) intermission, the third story brings us to a depressed screenwriter (Danny DeVito) who teaches at a film school because he could never repeat his successful first screenplay. Also the students don’t like his pragmatic teaching style, and, after an embarrassing moment in class, he contrives a drastic plan involving his dachshund to pay them all back. Finally in the last story a young girl (Zosia Mamet) visits her grandmother (Ellen Burstyn) together with her artist-boyfriend named ‘Fantasy’ who suffers through a creative block. She wants to ask for money for his new art project, but the old lady immediately sees through this plot. When her little dachshund who she calls ‘Cancer’ runs off, things take a different turn.

I don’t want to give away more info about the plot because this is what makes the movie so special: quirky characters who do silly things, garnished with funny dialogue. Everything is exaggerated, yet you can see how everyone of the characters could have a real-life counterpart, which is a trademark of director and writer Solondz. He finds the perfect balance and his movie never feels artificial. This is also an achievement of the great cast, where everyone delivers on-point portrayals of lonely people as they walk through a cruel world, just accompanied by their ‘Wiener Dog’.

This movie is full of controversial scenes, and it’s surely not everybody’s pair of shoes, but if you’re into black comedy, this movie highly recommended. It’s similar to movies like ‘Very Bad Things’, ‘Fargo’ and ‘Delicatessen’. It’s funny, it’s tragic, it’s moving and it’s completely crazy, but it somehow manages to come across as realistic. It has more value than the complete ‘Transformers’ series and I wish there would be more movies made like this: with a heart.


Wiener Dog (2016); Amazon Pictures; written & directed by Todd Solondz; with Ellen Burstyn, Julie Delpy, Danny DeVito, Kieran Culkin, Greta Gerwig, Zosia Mamet.


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