How to Kill Your Neighbor's Dog (2002)



Critic Consensus: No consensus yet.

Movie Info

Somewhere in L.A., Peter (Kenneth Branagh), a washed-up British playwright, struggles to duplicate his past glory as he surfs a foul-smelling tide of disenchantment. His wife, Melanie (Robin Wright Penn), manages to maintain an optimistic outlook even as she longs for the baby that her husband is hesitant to help her conceive. When Peter befriends Amy (Suzi Hofrichter), a neighborhood girl who has mild cerebral palsy, their friendship softens him to the idea of fatherhood and propels Melanie's … More

Rating: R (adult situations/language)
Genre: Drama, Art House & International, Comedy
Directed By:
Written By: Michael Kalesniko
In Theaters:
On DVD: Sep 2, 2003
Artistic License



as Peter McGowen

as Melanie

as Debra Salhany

as Amy Walsh

as Brian Sellars

as Trina Walsh

as Amy's Father

as Babysitter

as Laura Leeton

as Female Anchor

as Male Anchor

as Cop No. 1

as Cop No. 2

as Cop No. 3

as Cop No. 4

as Cop No. 5

as Cop No. 6

as Man No. 1

as Gynecologist

as Proctologist

as Nurse No. 1

as Nurse No. 2

as Young Man

as Father Neighbor

as Teenage Neighbor

as Baby the Dog
Show More Cast

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Critic Reviews for How to Kill Your Neighbor's Dog

All Critics (35) | Top Critics (11)

Has an unusually high ratio of laughs per minute.

February 27, 2004
Hollywood Reporter
Top Critic

Falsehoods pile up, undermining the movie's reality and stifling its creator's comic voice.

Full Review… | March 1, 2002
San Francisco Chronicle
Top Critic

Kenneth Branagh's energetic sweet-and-sour performance as a curmudgeonly British playwright grounds this overstuffed, erratic dramedy in which he and his improbably forbearing wife contend with craziness and child-rearing in Los Angeles.

Full Review… | February 22, 2002
Top Critic

... comes alive only when it switches gears to the sentimental.

Full Review… | February 22, 2002
Los Angeles Times
Top Critic

Audiences conditioned to getting weepy over saucer-eyed, downy-cheeked moppets and their empathetic caretakers will probably feel emotionally cheated by the film's tart, sugar-free wit.

Full Review… | February 22, 2002
New York Times
Top Critic

A wordy wisp of a comedy.

February 22, 2002
New York Post
Top Critic

Audience Reviews for How to Kill Your Neighbor's Dog


[font=Century Gothic]"How to Kill Your Neighbor's Dog" is about playwright, Peter Magowan(Kenneth Branagh), who used to be an enfant terrible of the theater set and is now nearing middle age. After a run of successful hits, he has been suffering recently through a string of failures and desperately wants a hit but difficult rehearsals for his newest play is not making anything easier. He is married to Melanie(Robin Wright Penn) who teaches dance and desperately wants to have a baby.(This is the second movie this week[/font] I've seen [font=Century Gothic]where Robin Wright Penn plays a character who wants to have a baby. Is this a trend or am I having one of those weeks?) Peter is much more hesitant about having a child. Add into this mix - a noisy neighborhood dog, new neighbors and a mysterious stranger.[/font]
[font=Century Gothic][/font]
[font=Century Gothic]"How to Kill Your Neighbor's Dog" is about a character finally growing up as he nears middle age which I can see but this does not necessarily have to include having children. This is almost a good movie and its only real strength is a superb performance from Kenneth Branagh. And it is too long by about twenty minutes and feeds on easy targets like morning news shows.[/font]

Walter M.

Super Reviewer

A friend told me about this and I thoroughly enjoyed it. NOT a run of the mill film. Kenneth Branagh is superb as is the supporting cast. A lot of language and content not suitable for kids but that's probably why its R... Lots of dry English comedy so if you don't like that kind of humor you probably won't like this film. I liked it a lot and highly recommend it.

I almost always expect Kenneth Brannagh to be donning a dodgy middle-ages moustache or flowery blouse whenever I see him on screen. His fascination with Shakespeare has been the bedrock of his career with successful productions of "Hamlet", "Much Ado About Nothing" and "Henry V" behind him. But he's also tried his hand at more mainstream work - 1991 thriller "Dead Again" and follow-up comedy, "Peter's Friends" for example. In 2000, he took his hands off the reigns, merely starring in Michael Kalesniko's directorial debut, "How to Kill Your Neighbour's Dog".

Peter McGowan (Brannagh) is a British playwright living in LA. After considerable success in the 80s, his 90s output has struggled to make the grade and now he's agitated, struggling to sleep, chain-smoking and impotent. His excitable wife Melanie (Wright Penn - "The Pledge", "Moll Flanders", "Forrest Gump", "The Playboys"), is pressuring him to have kids - something that is not on Peter's agenda.

Add to that the incessant night-time barking of his neighbour's dog, a stalker who claims he is Peter McGowan and the new eight-year old kid, Amy (Suzi Hofrichter), who hangs around his garden every day, and Peter's hemorrhoids might not be the worst of his problems.

Maybe all Peter needs is to find his magic again, but work on his latest production is moving slowly, director Brian Sellars (Krumholtz - "10 Things I Hate About You", "The Mexican") and prima-donna actor Adam (Johnathon Schaech) unimpressed with the dialogue that Peter has written for the child character in the play. Peter needs to find some inspiration - maybe Amy can be that for him?

It might be little known, but it's not under-appreciated. "How to Kill Your Neighbour's Dog" made a splash in 2000, winning several jury and audience awards and chosen to close the Toronto film festival.

One of the main success' of Kalesniko's script is that he keeps things light-hearted despite occasionally making scathing observations about Hollywood ('If you want to be happy in Hollywood, be a cinematographer. Nobody knows what you're doing, so they can't screw with you') and human beings in general. When Melanie suggests that Peter see a doctor about his anxiety, he replies 'What if he cures me? Then, I'll have nothing to write about. Nobody wants to know about how happy you are'.

There is perhaps a more political side to the shtick. During a TV interview, Peter calmly tells interviewer Debra Salhany: 'Do you ever think that if you attack an artist long enough, that you'll succeed in having him censor himself?' The dialogue succeeds in the main save for some occasions when it sounds like McGowan's smart-arse replies have come right off a cue card.

The manic, mid-life crisis that seems to be enveloping Peter is amusing and while initially not caring much for his predicaments, one quickly warms to his character. Credit for this goes to Brannagh, massively underrated actor that he is. Puffing continuously on a cigarette, swearing at his neighbour's dog, frequently not bothering to shave, dismissing young Amy with a sharp tone and paying little attention to his deteriorating mother-in-law (Redgrave - "Shine", "Gregory Girl"), it is remarkable that you still smile at his frequent rants and take him at face value.

The rest of the cast do fine. Wright Penn is not pushed in her role but she carries it off as well as should be expected. Redgrave, veteran of the screen, has little to do but mutter and look lost which she does sufficiently and the supporting acts of Krumholtz, Schaech and Peter's obsessed fan, Peter (Jared Harris - "Mr Deeds", "Smoke", "Natural Born Killers"), have their moments amongst it all.

This is a good movie. I don't think it's award-winning caliber but essentially you go in expecting occasional entertainment and you get a good sight more in the end. There is potential in the head of Kalesniko and I'd keep an eye on his next one. I expect a Christopher Guest-style approach where we'll see him teaming up with Wright Penn and Brannagh again.

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