When I was approached to screen and review Waldo the Dog, I accepted the assignment with incredible reservation. The synopsis of the film - A guilt and shame ridden mentally unstable young man wears a dog mask in order to cope – did little to turn my excitement crank. And the running time of just short of two hours had me less than enthused. After all, am I honestly going to sit through and objectively review a film about a guy in a dog mask that runs the length of a baseball game?
I waited for the right opportunity. A quiet Sunday where I retreated into my study with a cup of java and clicked on the forwarded links that brought me to the screener. Here, my experience began.
The opening minute of Waldo the Dog sure got our attention. Within mere seconds we took our feet off the ottoman and bent closer to the screen intrigued with the unexpected beginnings. We were convinced that Waldo the Dog would be a story about a man who wears a dog mask that becomes somewhat of a vigilante. We thought Defendor mixed with a little Kick-Ass.
But then the movie travelled down a different path. I watched with addicted eyes as the film delved into Waldo's survival on the street. How he got his food, peddled for money and began to train to become a professional wrestler. Waldo does not talk for 4/5ths of the film and the muted endurance of the mentally unstable man was a fascinating character study.
The film further evolves when Waldo is befriended by Jaquelyn (Jaquelyn Xavier) – a 19-year-old who takes to the quiet masked man and blossoms a relationship that is real and heartfelt. Waldo reluctant to remove his plastic mask, but the emotions shared between the two and the chemistry between the two leads was as real and as genuine as anything we have seen on film so far in 2011. Writer/director Kris Canonizado deserves most of the credit. He has drafted and orchestrated a loving and yet painful character study of two unique and complex characters that carry emotional baggage through to the film's surprising conclusion.
Waldo the Dog may end up being nothing more than a cult following pleasure. But all the components of a layered and uniquely textured film are featured and Kris Canonizado has taught us to never again judge a book by its cover.
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