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Published January 1st, 2005 | by Mike Barnard

Sleeping Dogs Review

Classification: 18 Director: Bobcat Goldthwait Rating: 3.5/5

Whoever said “honesty is the best policy” was clearly not aware of the sorts of sexual indiscretions some kids get up to at college – or at least the one in this cheeky yet twisted romantic comedy. Although I’m not going to reveal exactly what unique secret nice girl Amy (Hamilton) is harbouring, you find that out straight away in an amusing but shocking celluloid moment, it is the sort of action that turns even the most perfect relationship into a living hell. This may sound like the typical start to yet another gross out teen comedy, however Bobcat Goldthwait, who spent many a year as the crazy Officer Zed in the Police Academy series, has written and directed an inventive and tender offering. He’s gone for a more adult-orientated affair that disregards the usual character arcs of chaos leading to mundane moments of clarity and resolution. Instead, he favours the surprising and madcap moments that would make Officer Zed proud.

It all kicks off when Amy and her long term, golden fiancé John (Johnson) are locked in that one final conversation where they can say anything about their past they have never told anyone. Although she excites John initially by making up a story about having a lesbian fling, when she finally offers the real truth his shock threatens their previously rock steady relationship. Of course, this all happens prior to a trip to see Amy’s parents (Pierson and Friedericy) where the normally quaint pleasantries are exchanged for endless awkwardness. Sleeping Dogs is a shaggy tale Goldthwait uses to delve into real drama, question why we hide truths and make decisions with the right intentions that go horribly wrong. Of course, it delivers the moral messages with suitable comic intensity making it all very easy to digest.

Melinda Page Hamilton is cast perfectly as the good girl with a single blot on her history bleeding into every aspect of her life. She’s the person you have to sympathise with, especially with all the problems that spur of the moment decision affects. Able support comes from a largely television-actor cast such as French as Amy’s workmate Ed and Plotnick as her older brother Dougie who can’t resist last night meth-fuelled sampling sessions – much to the frustration of John who is forced to sleep in his room. Meanwhile Amy’s uptight parents have a few secrets of their own undermining their seemingly traditional customs all adding to the offbeat nature of the movie.

Although Sleeping Dogs doesn’t look great, it is clear it was made on the quick in cramped conditions and has a rather odd accordion score, these are also endearing qualities for what could have been a one-joke film had Goldthwait not opted for the black comedy to go with its moral centre. No, it is no American Pie or Old School, but it is streaks ahead of the mindless rom-coms or teen offerings thrown together so they can be sold to audiences on the basis they boast bikini clad girls or partial nudity.

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