Lawn Dogs (May 26/01)
Sometimes an ending can completely ruin everything that came before it, obliterating any good thoughts or feelings you may have had about the remainder of the film.
Lawn Dogs has such an ending. Sam Rockwell and Mischa Barton star as, respectively, a poor lawnmower man and a rich pre-teen, pre-rebellion bored kid. They meet one day while he's mowing another lawn and a unique friendship emerges. Much of the film follows their various misunderstandings with random folks in their town (Rockwell is accused of stealing CDs from a couple of locals, etc).
While slowly paced, Lawn Dogs is still mostly entertaining, if only for the two lead performances. Rockwell, an incredibly good and underrated actor, plays the lawn jockey as someone you think you know, but then discover you don't later on (witness the trip to his parents house for proof). And Barton, a young actress, is amazing as this young girl that's completely bored with her life and stirs things up whenever she can. Christopher McDonald and Kathleen Quinlan offer solid support as Barton's mother and father, and the rest of the cast is good (including a brief appearance by a pre-Law and Order Angie Harmon).
But what really kills the movie and leaves it with an aftertaste worse than raw garlic, is the ethereal ending. The movie abandons all reality and logic for a fairy tale denoument, and this just doesn't work at all. Perhaps if the rest of the film had been similarly fantastical this may have worked, but it wasn't so it didn't (much like Radio Flyer, which also eschewed reality at its conclusion). This ending frustrated me so much I wanted to throw stuff. It was such a cop-out, as if the screenwriter couldn't think of a logical way to wrap up the story, so he just said "what the hell, I'll just throw in a magical ending and audiences will be charmed by my audacity!" Well, I wasn't. I was irritated by it.
But besides that horrible finish, Lawn Dogs is mostly entertaining, if only for the stellar performances of the two leads.