A Dogwalker’s Christmas Tale is a truly awful film and I will not be moved on this position.
I recognise that we’re talking about a Netflix Christmas flick from 2015 – it’s not meant to be like watching a Spike Jonze movie or some shit – but seriously, how the heck did I end up feeling this furious about a piece of tinsel trash when it was meant to be you know, a fkn movie with dogs and the hot dude from Mean Girls in it? HOW DID I GET HERE?
Here is the synopsis: “Spoiled 21-year-old Luce Lockhart faces a tough decision when a handsome new friend asks her to protect a dog park from her wealthy employer.”
Guess what? Luce Lockhart sucks. The whole time. At no point is she redeemed and sucks less. She just sucks. She is a trust fund baby who loves Christmas and hates dogs – the latter of which makes her impossible to sympathise with at any point. Did she ultimately do a series of selfless things? Sure, but only after repeatedly rolling her eyes and whining like a big baby.
(Aside: I think Christmas movies may only be satisfying for people capable of joy, and I am not sure I qualify).
Wah wah, she cries, my parents went to Africa to do charity work over Christmas and the guy I was seeing thought I was too intense when I bought him a gift after just three months of very casual dating. Wah wah, I am SAHHHHHH generous. Wah wah, my little brother forgot he had offered to walk a dog in exchange for $$ and now I have to do it – and I get a really nice necklace if I do. Wah me, this dog is too large. (The dog, Hank, is perfect and precious the whole time.)
Also can someone tell me if this concept holds: low budget Christmas movies are analogous to commercial hetero porn. In porn, the dude is meant to substitute in for whichever schmuck is watching. He’s usually only like okay-looking, but with a large peen. Basically, men are meant to be able to identify themselves as the actor in porn.
In Christmas specials, the woman at the centre is meant to be a kind of everywoman, reasonably but non-threateningly attractive, no specific personality traits. And we’re supposed to be able to project ourselves on her, and thus fulfil all our romantic Yuletide fantasies, which largely centre on meeting/being courted by some handsome, wholesome dude – Aaron Samuels/Jonathan Bennett plays a veterinary student called Dean (the hottest name) ffs.
I make this smug face the entire time.
Luce? Luce does not allow us to do that. Luce is so deeply privileged, happily bragging about overdrawing her parents credit card, that it’s impossible to imagine yourself in her position, being very slowly wooed by a man with very little charm/wit, and hair that is TOO SHORT TO SLICK BACK.
I think the reason why Luce doesn’t work as our lead is that she’s been written by this guy called Jake Helgren, who is 37 and according to IMDb makes his living writing this stuff. But Helgren has never spoken to a 21-year-old in his life. If he had, he would’ve learned that everyone in their 20s is asking their parents for rent money for Christmas/actually has a job. WTF is this Texan fantasy where no one at uni is like, you know, making money with which to pay for one nine-month-long kegger?
Anyway her and her chirpy fun friends, Court and Whit (Michelle Ellen Jones and Sadie Brook) go out Christmas shopping in the first five minutes, where, shit you not, one of them straight up rips off Bananas in Pyjamas: “Are you thinking what I’m thinking [B1]?” Luce buys her bae, Derek (Avery Merrifield) an expensive watch, only for him to call her out for using her parents’ money to get him a gift. Also, this is all playing out over what is basically a festive musical theatre score. It… is disconcerting. My asshole clenched in anticipation of this being some kind of mistletoe musical.
Girl on left, Court: “I am in hell.”
Derek basically stares at her and says they have not been together long enough to be exchanging gifts rn. He implies they are not and have never been together. Which leads her to painstakingly list the chronology of their not-relationship. You almost feel for her in that moment – haven’t we all bought a present for some guy we had been dating ten seconds because it seemed too sad they were spending Xmas alone in Morocco? No? Just me?
He also accuses Luce of lacking “substance“. Her flatmate, a Grinch-like character called Becky (Sarah Joy Byington) who decided to forgo the morning shopping expedition to a store that does not do refunds OR exchanges, explains he means that she does not read Nietzsche and Kierkegaard. Guess what? I’ve read the 19th century philosophy dudes, and I too lack substance. That’s a false equivalency, friend. From this point on Luce fears that people consider she is but a nice girl who likes shopping and fancy-ass shit, which is almost true except no one thinks she’s especially nice. She just says she’s nice, which is not the same thing.
Things happened on the screen for many more minutes as I literally peeled my sunburn off – and in doing so realised that A Dogwalker’s Christmas Tale is exactly like peeling sunburn: compulsive, but ultimately unfulfilling.
If you want to know what things happened: she found out about her parents being away, exchanged some barbs with her cool guitar-playing little bro, and agreed to walk the rich neighbour’s dog in exchange for a hella expensive necklace after too much uhmming and ahhing. It’s a dog. Why wouldn’t you jump at the opportunity to spend time with a dog? They are the purest creatures. They spread joy and love. They even almost save this movie.
This is Hank, the true hero of this film.
She begins to walk the dog regularly, all the while complaining about Hank, the Goodest Boy being too big. His size means she scores a good meetcute with Jonathan Bennett’s Dean – Hank literally bowls him over at the dog park and she lands on top of him. He explains that dogs send messages by peeing on things, which is just like her texting all the time. At another point he jokes about making fun of her to distract from his own shortcomings. Relatable. Content. Anyway, this story needs CONFLICT, so the dog park is being made into a day spa by none other than Luce’s rich af neighbour, Missy (Dina Meyer), the owner of Hank. No way!
So the dog park people, but mostly hot future vet Dean, pressure Luce into helping them save the dog park. Things happen?? Something something, I lost interest and my sunburn peeled with like a real satisfying “THHHHHHHHHHK” sound, and then she caught her roomie and Derek hanging out while she was hanging out with Dean. Betrayal!
So even after failing to be swayed by the heartwarming stories of the dog park people – including a veteran who picked up his wife with the line “I was talking to your dog” – she explains to her frenemies she is part of an initiative to save the dog park. Which means she has to commit to that to prove a point. She wants to impress them and also explains why she suddenly has a dog after being all ‘Dogs are icky’ every moment of every day up until this point. Also, she is obvs on a quest to prove she is not just a vapid caricature, because Dean has literally said that dog people have “substance“. It’s only true.
I. HAVE. SUBSTANCE. her eyes scream.
There’s some beaut and outright rubbish dog puns – Aaron Samuels explains how he got into the “barking biz” – before she suggests they string up fairy lights and sell dog treats at a doggy festival in the park on Christmas Eve, and just kinda hope the owners of the park/her neighbours show up and are convinced! It’s a rubbish plan and it should not have worked.
Somewhere in there Dean and Luce hang out for reasons?? on what may be a date and end up watching Home Alone, an excellent Christmas film I suggest you watch instead of this. Also a date activity I strongly recommend. They kiss for the first time on some grass. The day after the date is their extremely important doggy Xmas festival, which somehow has access to an electricity generator. And also it doesn’t matter that they don’t have permits. But Luce wants to go to a party at her neighbour’s instead and is worried the neighbour would not like to know she was involved with the doggo festival, so the lovebirds squabble, and it’s boring because the stakes here are too low and I couldn’t give a shit what happens to any of these people.
At the party her neighbour – a man who talks like every cool teen villain of every ’80s teen movie (Patrick Muldoon) – decides to bulldoze the park because he’s sick of ’em being all up in his shit. But his wife is just like bored of her fancy party so she decides to come down too, and bring Hank, where she is persuaded by Luce’s argument that they could make $$ from the dog park by selling coffee. More money than they could with a day spa. Which seems wrong, but whatever, capitalism, this whole movie is an ode to capitalism. At no point does Luce throw off her chains because she’s actually a bourgeois binch to the end.
Look at this bourgeois binch.
Also her brother is there with his band??? I don’t know. I’m not invested in this at all anymore. There’s some confrontations because of some minor fibs Luce told earlier, she tries to sing Xmas carols as a distraction (hint: it doesn’t work), and finally she uses her dogwalking money to buy Dean a ticket home to see his family. And they kiss, and it’s finally over, and I need a body scrub to get rid of the rest of this dead skin. Happy? I watched the bad Christmas movie. Pls do not do that too.