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maryann johanson | watching movies at home

How to Kill Your Neighbor’s Dog (review)

Los Angeles playwright Peter McGowan (Kenneth Branagh: Love’s Labour’s Lost) doesn’t really want to kill his neighbor’s dog — he’s a suburban terrorist only in his cynical writer’s imagination. And he’s not even the misanthrope he’d like to think he is, either. Nobody does cranky better than Branagh, especially when he’s thawing into the warm and charming man his wife, Melanie (Robin Wright Penn: The Pledge), and his spunky 6-year-old neighbor Amy Walsh (Suzi Hofrichter) already know he is. Mordantly funny and intimately knowing — especially about what it is to live in a writer’s head — this bittersweet comedy, the directorial debut from screenwriter Michael Kalesniko, should have avoided wandering too far into the absurd, as it does once or twice. But Branagh redeems it, keeping the film grounded in the wonderful, schizophrenic reality of a man desperately scrambling to maintain his cynicism only to find that letting it go isn’t so bad after all.

MPAA: rated R for language

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