Wednesday, October 19, 2011

A Dog's Breakfast

A Dog's Breakfast is like a "happy accident." -David Hewlett [Stargate Atlantis]-

Made during the hiatus between Stargate Atlantis seasons, A Dog's Breakfast [2006] is a deliciously devilish little black comedy at roughly 88 minutes written and directed by Stargate Atlantis star David Hewlett. The actor was looking for something quick and dirty to sink his acting chops into in a short span of time. He also needed something relatively inexpensive that could come in on time and on a shoestring budget. Horror-thrillers weren't going to cut it, but were considered. It was decided A Dog's Breakfast was the answer. It's witty, funny and dark in its comedy offering a standout work for those looking for their David Hewlett fix.

Rest assured, this is short and sweet and no SyFy original. This is a quality little film. I had the recent, unfortunate dissatisfaction of stumbling on the latest SyFy venture starring David Hewlett. This puts everyone on notice that I'm no shill for any and all things Hewlett. It was a Saturday night and a timely visit to Gateworld [a fantastic Stargate site and resource for all things Stargate], clued me into the fact Hewlett, along with actor Robert Picardo [Stargate Atlantis, Star Trek: Voyager, China Beach], would star in SyFy's latest Saturday night feature, Morlocks. I was not expecting much and my low expectations kept me grounded for the reality of these poorly concocted productions, and they are productions.

It takes much to reel me into a SyFy film [cough] classic. Alerting me to former Stargate Atlantis or Stargate SG-1 cast members is always a good sell. You see SyFy is a little smarter than you thought. But, I'm afraid Tiffany or Debbie Gibson isn't going to be quite enough to draw me normally. Of course, this, as I discovered once again [when will I learn], simply wasn't enough to make a good science fiction picture. The production values are simply inexcusable when supporting talent like David Hewlett. Morlocks, a nod to the H.G. Wells classic The Time Machine's beasties, simply disappoints on so many levels. No amount of Hewlett or Picardo, as good as they are, could save Morlocks. On that subject, I've said quite enough.

Meanwhile, a purchase over at Amazon for just three dollars could deliver you a fine little exercise in indie filmmaking with the true creative process that is A Dog's Breakfast. It really says something about the passion of those involved. A Dog's Breakfast is what they call a deferral film as in defer your paycheck.

In the DVD extras Hewlett recalls putting it together and deciding what the team had to work with, a team including his producer wife Jane Loughman. They bought an old house in disrepair. "We had access to a house and a dog and a sister and some co-stars on Stargate Atlantis and SG-1. We just threw them together in a blender." Funny enough, it's a delight and for fans of the Stargate franchise it is a treat to see Hewlett work with Paul McGillion [Stargate Atlantis], his wonderful sister Kate Hewlett, Christopher Judge [Stargate SG-1]and Rachel Luttrell [Stargate Atlantis]. Of course, Hewlett's dog Mars as the star dog is no joke, a real, tremendous canine talent. That's a joke. Cute dog included, this is genuinely terrific low budget filmmaking. It's the kind of thing you would do at home, but with a much larger budget. Everything is relevant. Ultimately, the little project turned into this fine, little movie that could.

The dark comedy features a visit by Hewlett's sister to the character's home with her new boyfriend, played by McGillion. It turns out Hewlett's character is a bit of a psychological basket case as only we can love. McGillion's character is a science fiction soap star [on fictional series Star Crossed along with Rachel Luttrell]. The Hewlett character is none too pleased about him and dreams up ways to essentially knock him off until the boyfriend actually accidentally kills himself. The comic antics continue from there until its logical conclusion.

Hewlett isn't that far out of character from his work on Stargate Atlantis, but he does up the ante in his role as a wacky, neurotic, harmless maniac is a pleasure to watch. He is matched only by his beautiful sister Kate's hysterical turn. She nearly steals the show.

This is an example of the kind of physical comedy that permeates much of the production. It's special.

Interestingly, David Hewlett outside of A Dog's Breakfast, his work on Stargate SG-1 and Stargate Atlantis, has had a number of other interesting roles captured on film for those looking to seek out some of his best. Nothing [2003], from the director of Cube [1997], and Treed Murray [2001] are among them.

In the end, A Dog's Breakfast succeeds creatively. In fact, as Hewlett put it, it's like an "old-fashioned comedy."

The physical humor of Steve Martin, Peter Sellers, Chevy Chase, Martin Short and Rowan Atkinson immediately springs to mind. That's not to say, like Steve Martin, Hewlett doesn't possess the talent and skill of a dramatic actor. He walks the line better than many I've seen. It's a brilliant little project that works beautifully with tongue-in-cheek and an appeal reminiscent of a classic like Weekend At Bernie's [1989] or more fittingly British comedies like Mr. Bean, Little Britain or Catherine Tate. Nevertheless, the unique Hewlett is a craftsman as actors go in his own right and a pleasure to watch when gracing the screen. Or, maybe I'm alone in thinking he may be a comic genius.

As always, the team credit the work behind-the-scenes of Stargate fans that aided in its promotion. Hewlett advised new filmmakers to "get yourself an incredibly huge, loyal fanbase of Stargate suporters and make your movie." A Dog's Breakfast, while modest in size, was a bit of a surprise. I guess it's a bit like being a dog and being the joyful recipient of an unexpected medium-sized milkbone dog biscuit. It's a real treat. SyFy could learn something here.

David Hewlett Filmography: The Darkside [1987]/ Pin [1988; with Terry O'Quinn]/ The Penthouse [1989]/ Dead Meat [1989]/ Where The Heart Is [1990]/ Deep Sleep [1990]/ Desire And Hell At Sunset Hotel [1990]/ Scanner II: The New Order [1991]/ The First Circle [1991]/ A Savage Christmas: The Fall Of Hong Kong [1992]/ Quiet Killer [1992]/ Split Images [1992]/ Blood Brothers [1993]/ The Boys Of St. Vincent: 15 Years Later [1993]/ Joe's Wedding [1996]/ Cube [1997]/ On The 2nd Day Of Christmas [1997]/ Elevated [1997]/ Bad Day On The Block [1997]/ Clutch [1998]/ Milkman [1998]/ Survivor [1999]/ The Life Before This [1999]/ Blind [1999]/ Autoerotica [1999]/ Amateur Night [1999]/ Chasing Cain [2001]/ And Never Let Her Go [2001]/ The Triangle [2001]/ Century Hotel [2001]/ Treed Murray [2001; a.k.a. Get Down]/ Cypher [2002]/ Father Lefty [2002]/ Nothing [2003; writer]/ Foolproof [2003]/ Friday Night [2003/ Boa vs Python [2004]/ Ice Men [2004]/ Dark Light [2004]/ A Dog's Breakfast [2006; writer-director]/ Helen [2008]/ Splice [2009]/ The Whistleblower [2010]/ Evil Snow Monkey [2010; director]/ Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes [2011]/ Morlocks [2011].

Television: Street Legal [1988-1994; 2 eps]/ Katts And Dog [1991-1992; 2 eps]/ Beyond Reality [1992-1993; 2 eps]/ Shining Time Station [1993; 2 eps]/ Kung Fu: The Legend Continues [1993-1996; 13 eps]/ Traders [1996-2000; 73 eps]/ Stargate SG-1 [2001-2007; 7 eps]/ Stargate Atlantis [2004-2009; 100 eps]/ Hellcats [2010-2011; 2 eps]/ Stargate Universe [2011; 1 ep].


le0pard13 said...

Well, based with what David Hewlett did with Rise of the Planet of the Apes this summer, I should see this film. I hadn't heard of it till you wrote this fine post, SFF. Thanks.

SFF said...

Cheers L13.

And I haven't see RISE, but I suspect his role was a small one.

Hewlett really gets to shine in a film like this.