“Life in the Doghouse” offers cinematic cuteness hitherto unseen in 2018 — and that’s a statement made with the full knowledge that “Paddington 2” was released in January.
Ron Davis’ documentary chronicles the day-to-day grind of Danny Robertshaw and Ron Danta — the power couple behind Danny & Ron’s Rescue, a nonprofit organization that saves dogs left over from overcrowded shelters, abusive puppy mills and dogfighting rings.
Robertshaw and Danta began rescuing dogs after Hurricane Katrina struck in 2005, leaving thousands of dogs homeless and stranded. Since then, they’ve rescued more than 10,000 dogs, providing them with medical care as well as spaying and neutering services. Often, the rescued dogs take up residence in Robertshaw and Danta’s own spacious home.
And that’s where the cuteness comes in, as a dozen doggos lounge in and around the couple’s bed and otherwise claim human furniture as their own. As Robertshaw and Danta admit, the two are merely guests in the doghouse.
Much of the film’s appeal is that it’s the cinematic equivalent of scrolling through dog accounts on Instagram — that is, accounts whose captions convey necessary messages about dog adoption practices.
There’s one pupper in particular that’s the runaway star of the film — imagine Chewbacca but with the dimensions of a corgi and the face of a small grizzly bear. Editor Michael Culyba includes multiple cutaways to the good boy, one of many choices that render the film a crowd pleaser.
But “Life in the Doghouse” isn’t afraid to get serious, either. Danta frankly tells the audience that every dog should be required by law to be spayed or neutered. Without such enforcement, dog overpopulation crowds kennels, which invariably leads to shelters having to use euthanasia.
One of the film’s most striking images is an overhead shot of black plastic bags being loaded onto a truck by two veterinarians. It’s a lengthy shot — long enough for us to realize what’s inside the bags without any verbal confirmation. It then cuts to the bags being tossed into a garbage pit.
While much of “Life in the Doghouse” is lighthearted — the film is a love story, in many ways — its turn to seriousness isn’t unwarranted. In a political climate that forsakes human kindness, seeing individuals respond to pain and trauma with empathy is a much-needed sign of hope.
Ultimately, “Life in the Doghouse” uses the story of a same-gender couple that lives with dozens of adorable dogs to sneak in a couple major takeaways. First, never buy a dog from a pet store, as they’re often supplied by inhumane puppy mills. Second, adopt dark-colored dogs, since they’re statistically less likely to be adopted and thus are more often euthanized. While Danny and Ron may be the heroes of this film, they can’t save every dog — the film cleverly tells us that it’s on us now.
“Life in the Doghouse” will play at the Castro Theatre on Saturday, June 23 at 11 a.m.