Movie review: Solondz returns to dark form with anthology 'Wiener-Dog'

Brad Keefe, Columbus Alive

There is dark comedy, and then there is Todd Solondz dark comedy, which is so dark I sometimes feel bad for laughing at it.

Starting with 1995's "Welcome to the Dollhouse" - a pitch-black ode to being awkward and bullied - and cemented with 1998's "Happiness," Solondz carved out his own bleak corner of suburban isolation.

"Happiness" remains the high-water mark of Solondz's career - confession: for a few years, I made a tradition out of watching it every Christmas - and sent him down the road of anthologies. He revisited many of those characters (played by an entirely new cast) with "Life During Wartime."

This generally sets you up for "Wiener-Dog," which is not the outright "Dollhouse" sequel fans might have expected. Instead it follows a dachshund whose life is marked by a series of dysfunctional owners.

Things are as darkly comic as ever, occasionally reaching jaw-dropping proportions. Like many anthologies, the biggest stumbling block for "Wiener-Dog" is unevenness. Though none of the segments is a total dud, the weaker ones stick out.

The best of these is probably the one that brings back "Dollhouse" character Dawn Wiener (now played by a well-cast Greta Gerwig). There are other great actors in this cast (Kieran Culkin, Danny DeVito, Ellen Burstyn) used to varying degrees of success.

But if you are into Solondz, the hits outweigh the misses (stay for the year's greatest intermission). Just know that there's dark, and there's Solondz dark (particular warning if you are a dog lover and think this looks cute). This is obviously the latter.

"Wiener-Dog"

Opens Friday at the

Gateway Film Center

3 stars