Bark (October 5/03)
Bark, a truly awful movie on so many levels, actually played at the Sundance Film Festival. What the programmers saw in this ultra-pretentious and mostly incoherent piece of junk is beyond me. But far more disturbing is the inclusion of actors like Lisa Kudrow and Hank Azaria in the film's cast. Presumably they owed a favor to someone and were forced to sign on without seeing a script. There is absolutely no way that any rational actor could have read this screenplay and thought to themselves, "yes, this is exactly the kind of movie I want to be in." Bark is terrible. Terrible, terrible, terrible.
The movie stars Lee Tergesen as Peter, a man whose wife has begun behaving like a dog. We're never really given a solid explanation for why she does this; a psychiatrist eventually explains that Lucy (played by Heather Morgan) is looking for the same kind of unconditional love that pets receive. Peter tries diligently to find a cure for Lucy, even visiting a veterinarian (Lisa Kudrow) for advice.
Back when the show was still called Siskel and Ebert, it used to really bother me when Gene Siskel would flippantly dismiss a movie by calling it junk. Every film has some redeeming qualities, I used to tell myself, no matter how lousy it may be. Not Bark. It comes close to avoiding junk status, only because of the impressive roster of actors it contains. But asking folks like Azaria and Vincent D'Onofrio (appearing here as a mental patient) not to excel in their performances is like asking Celine Dion to exercise restraint; it's just not going to happen.
At the film's core is a dilemma that's just not compelling in the least. Why does Lucy think she's a dog? The film's not interested in answering that question, but rather in exploring the reactions of everyone around her. This leads to a painfully misguided sequence featuring Lucy's parents and sister, who've come to visit and see for themselves what's happened to her. The problem is that these people aren't characters; they're caricatures. Lucy's mother just wants to accept her daughter's new personality, while dad's in denial; the scene's played for laughs, but there's nothing funny here. Everyone's trying so darn hard to make this thing work, that it comes off as sheer desperation among the actors.
Bark seems to exist in an alternate universe where nobody behaves in a logical or even believable manner. It's hard to know exactly what screenwriter Morgan (yes, the same Morgan that plays Lucy) had in mind when she was writing this. Is the film supposed to be some kind of statement on the way men and women relate to each other, or is it just a silly comedy? It's not funny and doesn't have a thing to say about human relationships, so I'm not entirely sure why the movie even exists.
Yep, Bark's a real dog all right.