Must Love Dogs Poster: Diane Lane and John Cusack sit on a bench in a park with a dog between them.


Title: Must Love Dogs
Released: 2005

Fix: Romantic Comedies, John Cusack, getting your groove back
Platforms: Netflix

Netflix Summary:

Divorcee Sarah Nolan isn’t ready for romance, but when her sister signs her up for an online dating service, love-seeking mates come calling.

FYA Summary:

It’s got all the tropes: large, overly involved in each other’s lives family; always having a quick witted comeback for everything; a charmingly gorgeous single lady who somehow has trouble finding a date; spontaneous sing-a-longs; popular music montages; John Cusack being John Cusack; Dermott Mulroney winning at being attractively normal.
This is one of those movies where you need to handwave away a reality where a preschool teacher and a guy who builds boats no one buys somehow live in the places they do and have endless time to meet up during the day. And I’m totally okay with handwaving away that reality.

Familiar Faces:

There are SO many recognizable people in this movie!

Diane Lane as Sarah

In which some movie tries to make me believe that a man would step out on Diane Lane with a 20-year-old. Please. This was Diane’s third movie with the word dog in the title (Mad Dog Time and My Dog Skip were the others). It’s only eight short years later that Hollywood took Ms. Lane from leading lady of her own films like this one to Superman’s mom, which, travesty. Diane is so charming in this movie; she’s got a comeback for everything, has great side-bangs, and can wear the heck out of a turtleneck.

John Cusack as Jake

Oh, John. Johnny John. I had a massive crush on John Cusack in my teens. He makes for an interesting conundrum: I feel like he plays himself in every movie he’s in…does that make him a bad actor OR is his John Cusack-ness just so powerful that it cannot be contained by plot or script? Ponder that for a moment. He really is in all of his rambling, monologuing, why-is-this-weirdo-charming-but-then-he-smiles-at-you-so-intensely glory during this movie.

Dermot Mulroney as Bobby

Did you know Dermot is a classically trained cellist? Thanks, IMDB! Dermot has been in a TON of films/shows, and I feel like I need to apologize to him now for always confusing him with Dylan McDermott (I don’t know if you can convince me that this isn’t his alter-ego). He plays the attractive-dad-next-door so well.

Christopher Plummer as Bill

Ah, Captain Von Trapp, one of my other childhood crushes. Christopher Plummer is still pretty dishy even as an older gentleman! He plays the perfect dad role here, even after his sad widower explanation about why he’s dating three women, which, speaking of—I still do NOT get why the three women are all cool with sitting around the dinner table at the same damn time. Just because you’re older doesn’t mean you don’t need your self-respect, ladies.

Stockard Channing as Dolly

Even with weird blonde curls, Ms. Channing is a delight for your viewing pleasure. She plays a small role as one of Sarah’s dad’s girlfriends (you’re too good for that, Stockard), and her biggest purpose is to live in a trailer in the same neighborhood as Bobby so Sarah can constantly run into him. Yet despite her limited screen time, I was charmed.

Elizabeth Perkins as Carol

Elizabeth Perkins is one of those character actors that when I see her I’m like, “I know her!” but her IMDB doesn’t really point to a specific show/movie, just many little roles (she was a rom-com staple for a hot minute). Her biggest role most people probably know is in Weeds.

Glenn Howerton as Michael

Glenn wasn’t as big as he is now back when Must Love Dogs came out, but he’s been in a ton of things by this point: E.R., FargoHouse of LiesThe Mindy Project, and, obviously, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. His is a bit role as Sarah’s brother stuck in a bad relationship, but he does a very important thing in this movie: he supplies the dog.

Ben Shenkman as Charlie

Ben is another character actor who’s been in many big tv shows (Royal PainsLaw & OrderGrey’s Anatomy, and Damages, to name a few), and he also bears an unfortunate resemblance to politician Anthony Weiner here. I’m sorry, but if I can’t un-see it, neither can you.

Couch-Sharing Capability: Furry Friend

With a name like Must Love Dogs, this is the perfect movie to watch with your furry friend (be it of the canine or feline or leporine variety; we’re all-inclusive here) all cuddled up on the couch together. And if you don’t have a pet…perhaps a fuzzy pillow?

Recommended Level of Inebriation: Oh, Were We Supposed to Share?

You start off with just one reasonably sized glass of wine before the movie starts, but somewhere along the way you’re gonna want to start commiser-drinking with Sarah as she goes on bad date after bad date (and fill it to the brim for that cringey scene with the wax hands and potholders). Being tipsy is only going to enhance the silly smile on your face and the feels you’ll feel during the climax of the film, so go ahead and drink the whole bottle—I won’t tell.

Use of Your Streaming Subscription: Rom-Com Nostalgia

What has Diane Lane been up to? What has John Cusack been up to? I last remember him foregoing the romantic comedy to do a weird film about war and I finally realized my Cusack love may not extend that far (it was super weird, guys). Where are all the movies like this nowadays? Why do I suddenly sound like an old lady dreaming of better days?

Stephanie (she/her) is an avid reader who moonlights at a college and calls Orlando home. Stephanie loves watching television, reading DIY blogs, planning awesome parties, Halloween decorating, and playing live-action escape games.