- - Sunday, October 19, 2014

The Hallmark Channel is the modern equivalent of the 1960s’ family favorite “Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of Color,” so it’s not surprising that its movies are saturated in saccharine. What is surprising is that Hallmark movies are also as addictive as sugar.

At first glance, the network’s newest offering, “My Boyfriends’ Dogs,” seems like a retread of the 2005 film “Must Love Dogs.” Yet the movie has enough single-woman-who-wants-companionship-but-can’t-find-the-right-guy angst to connect with a target audience weary of a culture that substitutes “dating” for “sex” and depicts single women as mindless vixens interested only in the hunkiest guy they can con into a proposal.

From the start, it’s clear “My Boyfriends’ Dogs” is more Disney than “Sex in the City.” It’s set in an old-fashioned, G-rated world where the most risque twist involves two secondary characters deciding on a live-in romance.

Sound too sweet for your tastes? Don’t judge this movie by its lack of adult physical situations. The plentiful adult psychological situations — which build to the lesson that a woman can find love without becoming a mirror to her boyfriends’ hobbies, interests and belief systems — makes it stand out. Like it or not, many women still do just that.

Actress Teryl Rothery portrays the mother of main character — runaway bride Bailey Daly (Erika Christensen of NBC’s “Parenthood”) — and says the counsel her character gives her daughter is something Ms. Rothery hopes to one day instill in her real-life daughter.

“So many friends of mine, both growing up and as adults, feel they need to change to suit certain men,” Ms. Rothery said. “Sometimes women dumb it down a little, and that’s just wrong. That’s what I love about my character. She keeps reminding her daughter that she’s an amazing young woman who shouldn’t have to change to find love.”

And that, of course, is what Bailey discovers in the end.

Hallmark based the movie on the 2010 novel of the same name by Dandi Daley Mackall.

Although the book is set in St. Louis, the movie seems to be in “Anytown, USA,” where the runaway bride finds herself in a diner on a rainy night explaining to its two owners (played by Joyce DeWitt of “Three’s Company” and Michael Kopsa of “Fringe”) why she walked away from three romances, but adopted her ex-boyfriends’ dogs.

As the story unfolds, we see Bailey try to turn herself into an athlete, an intellectual and — for lack of a better term — a rich snob to win the hearts of the men she believes she loves.

The storyline might sound corny and some scenes may stretch credibility, there are plentiful scenes that ring hauntingly true in the face of loneliness.

Checking and rechecking a cellphone to see if a message has arrived, sidestepping feelings of inferiority based on literary tastes, and even acquiescing to familial traditions that are wholly uncomfortable.

Ms. Christensen brings a sense of realism to the role, even when some dialogue seems a bit preachy and scenes might stretch credibility a tad far.

Like Walt Disney’s films, “My Boyfriends’ Dogs,” isn’t going to make a huge impact on art, but it might show the best way to be true to one’s heart.


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