[original title: Mato Sem Cachorro]
The Dognapper is a Brazilian RomCom of sorts that is sprawling, directionless, and definitely too long.
Our anti-hero is Deco. He is a nice guy, but emotionally immature and lazy as hell. He shows some talent in editing music videos and such things, but he never does anything with it. He is also not socialising much, preferring to lie on his couch and listening to music and watching music videos. Roughly in his mid-30s, he is often short on money, but apparently never threatened with real poverty, as his parents seem to be quite wealthy.
By accident he meets Guto, a street dog, and Zoé, a radio station manager and workaholic. Deco and Zoé fall in love at the same time as they start caring for Guto. But over time, their relationship turns sour – presumably due to their different personalities. Encouraged by his useless cousin Leléo, who is the bane of his existence and his worst adviser, Deco ventures on a hair-brained dognapping scheme. But this is just the start of his problems…
This film is not a complete failure. There are a lot of things to like here: many of the performances are great, and the film is good-looking and seems professionally produced, with a nice score. But this does not change the fact that The Dognapper, as a comedy, is deeply unsatisfying.
The problems are in the writing and – I assume – in the directing and editing. The film has a beginning, a middle, and an end, but they do not necessarily feel like they belong to the same plot. And while there are a number of funny moments in this film, a lot of the humour falls flat. So the blame has to fall on writer André Pereira; and on director Pedro Amorim who also co-wrote and co-edited the film.
It is all a bit of a shame, really, because of the good performances. Bruno Gagliasso gives a great performance in the difficult (and not entirely well-written) lead role of Deco; and Gagliasso, Enrique Diaz (as Deco’s rival Fernando) and especially Leandra Leal (Zoé) deserve to be in a much better film than this one.
Other performances suffer more visibly under the writing and directing. Letícia Isnard, for example, is clearly a good actress, but her performance as Zoé’s colleague Ananda is marred by exaggeration. Comedian and jack-of-all-trades Danilo Gentili (Leléo), meanwhile, gives a very decent performance, but his character is simply absurd. This is probably also a case of let-the-comedian-do-his-thing: the character does not seem to have been fully thought through, instead they simply decided to throw Gentili in front of a camera and tell him to be funny.
Popculture references – such as a music/band/casting sub-plot, a cameo by Brazilian singer Sandy (as herself) and a forced City of God reference – may add to the flair, but do nothing to revive this disappointing dud of a film.
The only thing worse than a mediocre comedy is a comedy that is both mediocre and long. And even if you discount the opening and closing credits (which contain “outtakes”), The Dognapper still runs for 110 minutes, which means that watching this film feels less like entertainment, and more like hard work.
Rating: 4 out of 10