A Dog’s Breakfast is Black Comedy for Geeks

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This Winter break was a time to catch up on many things for me and my family. One of the items we caught up on was a DVD of A Dog’s Breakfast, encased in the little red Netflix envelope that has been sitting on the entertainment center for months, mocking us. How many homes have those envelopes lying around, because you’ve kept your account just to be able to stream movies to your Xbox 360 or Boxee install, and don’t really care about the physical media mailed to you each time you send a movie back? We’ll, we’re one of those homes as well (really need to update our account).

So, why A Dog’s Breakfast? One real reason: we’re a Stargate household. Big fans of all three shows, and all the actors, not the least of whom is David Hewlett. David played the pompous, neurotic, and yet endearing Dr. Rodney McKay on Stargate: SG1 and Stargate: Atlantis, who was one of the most popular characters from Atlantis’ 5-year run (maybe we could get McKay to pay a guest visit to SGU – what do you think, fans!?!). Well, the story goes that David, his sister Kate (who very memorably guested on a Stargate episode as his sister), his then girlfriend (now wife) and producer Jane Loughman, along with a number of Stargate folks, wanted to make a small indie movie over the month-long winter hiatus between half-seasons on the show. After working over a number of ideas, they settled on a black comedy about a sister bringing her fiancé home to meet her obsessive/neurotic brother.

In one of those classic “let’s put on a show” experiences, they got a bunch of friends involved, including people from the Stargate productions who helped them pull together resources far beyond what the usual indie film enjoys, and they made the movie over a few weeks. David wrote the screenplay, directed and acted as the neurotic brother. Kate played the quirky sister, Atlantis alum Paul McGillion gamely plays the fiancé who happens to be an actor on a cheesy science fiction TV show, and a dog named Mars filled the titular dog roll. That’s the main casting. I’ll leave the other small roles and their actors as surprises for you to enjoy when you watch the movie yourself (specifically if you are a Stargate fan).

And yes, you should watch this movie.

A Dog’s Breakfast is quirky, dark (without being mean or dispiriting), and really really funny. If David and Kate Hewlett weren’t so obviously brother and sister, they’d be doing a revival of The Thin Man, their timing with each other is so good. As it is, it would behoove some cable network to develop a series about an odd-couple brother and sister detective duo solving crimes while they alternately snipe at and care for each other. The comedy comes effortlessly from these two.

David plays a lot more physical comedy than anyone has seen him do before, and it works really well. His Patrick is a rather introverted, OCD man who lives with his dog in his late parents’ home. He has no friends, save those he meets online, and he obviously doesn’t handle change well. Kate plays his sister Marylin who, while eccentric herself, left home and got a life as a make-up artist, which is where she met her fiancee’ Ryan, played by McGillion who obviously has a great time with the lead actor-stereotype, and is even more hilarious in a surprise role later in the movie. The dog Mars is a marvel, he’s so good at participating in a scene without looking like there’s a handler just off-camera feeding him signals. Of course, I’m a sucker for a cute dog in a movie.

The film itself is obviously indie, but a few cuts above the usual handy-cam visual quality you might expect. Indeed, it could easily run on TV without looking out of place (except, you know, for being actually funny with original characters). It has a very spare sound design, with minimal music and effects, but what’s there is all that’s needed to punctuate the beats.

But how about watching it as a family? Well, your mileage may vary, but I’d feel comfortable suggesting it for early ‘tweens on up. It’s PG-13, but the language is relatively mild, and what nudity there is (male), is so well done for laughs, there’s no shock value to it. Of course, it is a film about murder, and trying to dispose of a body that doesn’t want to stay disposed-of, so include that in your calculations.

A Dog’s Breakfast is a fun little movie, with interesting characters and wonderful black humor. Fans of the various Stargate franchises will get a kick out of seeing a number of their favorite actors doing something different, but if you don’t know Stargate, you should have just as much satisfaction since you’ll enjoy the performances and sharply-written story without the baggage of the other shows.

And, to add a little geeky convenience, A Dog’s Breakfast is available in a wide array of online delivery methods, including being completely free to watch on Hulu. You can also check out the offical movie website, adogsbreakfast.com.

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