'Wiener-Dog': The central dachshund is more of a linking device than a character

'Wiener-Dog' stars actors including Tracy Letts, Julie Delpy, and Danny DeVito as various owners of a dachshund.

Linda Callerus/Amazon Studios & IFC Films
A scene from the movie ‘Wiener-Dog.’

Todd Solondz’s dark comedy “Wiener-Dog” follows the life of a dachshund as she moves through the lives of her various owners, all of whom are, in various ways, cracked. The mordancy of this movie will not surprise Solondz devotees, but unknowing audiences expecting a raunchy teen comedy from the film’s title should be forewarned. This is not “American Pie” in a kennel. 

The dachshund is dauntless but more of a linking device than a full-fledged character (and she has less to do with the movie as it ambles along). Her first owner is a sickly boy whose parents (played by Tracy Letts and Julie Delpy) grow increasingly exasperated with the pooch’s potty habits. Then it’s on to gawky Dawn Wiener, who was a character 21 years ago in Solondz’s “Welcome to the Dollhouse.” She’s played by Greta Gerwig, the It Girl of the indies, and she renames the dog Doody. Eventually we get to Danny DeVito as a burned-out film school instructor and, in the best episode, Ellen Burstyn as a crotchety crone. The poignancy of her shut-in life dissolves the film’s deadpan ditherings. Grade: B- (Rated R for language and some disturbing content.)

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