Revitalizing a Forgotten Genre
During the late 90s into the early 2000s, romantic comedies used to dominate the silver screen. Films such as She’s All That, You’ve Got Mail, The Wedding Singer, The Proposal, and many others popularized the genre. Nowadays, mainstream traditional rom-coms are hard to come by. Typically, these sorts of films reside in streaming or direct-to-video, with the majority of them not having the level of quality that rom-coms saw in the 90s and 2000s. However, Puppy Love proved to be a diamond in the rough.
Puppy Love stars Lucy Hale and Grant Gustin as Nicole and Max, who both struggle in the dating market and match each other on a dating site. On their first date, they both bring their dogs; however, they soon realize that they are complete opposites. After a horrible experience on their first date, they both vow to never speak to the other again. This oath of silence is soon broken when Max learns his dog got pregnant on the date, forcing the two back together until the birth of the puppies.
Revitalizing the Genre
What made some of the romantic comedies great during the 90s and 2000s was having creative and fun ways to have the couples come together. Whether one of the leads had memory loss, such as in 50 First Dates, or having a romantic lead trying to avoid deportation, such as in The Proposal, the movies found entertaining ways to tell their usually generic story. The films would also lean into the fun aspects of the story, having a fast-paced energy that keeps it moving along. In recent years, romantic comedies have forgotten to have fun with their ideas while also being entertaining at the same time.
Puppy Love leans into these aspects that made the films work decades ago. The idea of the dogs being the connective tissue for the two leads was engrossing enough to pull in an audience’s interest. Because of that, the film is able to find innovative ways to provide comedy, as well as to grow the romance between the two leads. As most romantic comedies these days tend to be more straightforward and generic with their stories, Puppy Love decided to have fun with the standard meet-cute trope.
Pandering to Dog Lovers
Similar to this year’s dog comedy, Strays, Puppy Love has a few moments to tug on dog lovers’ heartstrings. While not having any real, dramatic moments of despair, the standard trope of the eventual fall-out between the two leads does take advantage of the sensitivity dog owners have toward their pets. It isn’t anything inventive or written exceptionally well, but it provides enough of an emotional aspect to the film that makes for a well-rounded movie overall.
Rushing the Romance
Nicole and Max are both fun leads with their own sets of quirks that make them likable. Lucy Hale and Grant Gustin are both charming, which helps make their characters more enjoyable despite some of their annoyances. For example, Nicole is disorderly and irresponsible, while Max struggles with fear, OCD, and being a germ-a-phobe. These traits provide both leads with distinguishable, loveable, quirky traits that provide plenty of material for great comedic moments.
However, the romance that is built between Nicole and Max begins to feel rushed toward the end. Watching the pair learn to overcome their differences and fall in love is clunky and contradicts early claimed statements. For example, Nicole can almost be viewed as a chaotic force in Max’s life based on the way he lives. Due to his fears and obsessions, it’s hard to see the clear pathway to how he overcame these character flaws. There are moments in the film that demonstrate why the two are able to have a romantic interest in each other, but it isn’t fully smoothed out enough.
Struggling to Overcome the Genre Set-Backs
While Puppy Love is a very entertaining movie, it still has a flaw that some analysts claim contributed to the decline in studios producing romantic comedies. These films eventually struggled to grow with audiences in ways that allowed modern viewers to connect with the stories. For better or for worse, relationships and dating have dramatically changed over the years, with the COVID-19 pandemic helping to further alter approaches to dating. Puppy Love tries to address these new ways of dating by addressing the pandemic off-handedly and by the two meeting through a dating app. While these aspects have impacted dating in the 21st century, it didn’t feel as if the film fully used these aspects to dive into the heart of the dating landscape.
Recognizing that the movie isn’t designed to be a deep critical analysis of modern dating but rather is simply trying to provide viewers with an entertaining hour and forty-six-minute movie, it still would have been nice to see the film apply these modern principles to the story. Since the movie has many generic and standard aspects that every romantic comedy follows, pushing the modern dating scene more into the forefront could have given the film more of an identity while pushing the genre forward.
Puppy Love is currently streaming on Amazon Prime through Amazon Freevee.
Puppy Love (2023) Official Amazon Freevee Trailer