“Car Dogs” looked interesting, not only because I like the main star, Patrick J. Adams but the movie was filmed in Phoenix and written by a local author, Mark Edward King. I hoped those two facts would allow for an authentic and well-acted film. The acting was good, the scenery was realistic and the story was entertaining. However, it missed a few steps and could have been so much more.
Mark Chamberlain (Patrick J. Adams), is the sales manager at his father’s dealership, Chamberlain Auto that promises to do “Whatever it Takes” to get you in a new car. His father, Malcolm (Chris Mulkey) is a brilliant businessman but overbearing and vicious to his son. Mark has the opportunity to get his own dealership and out from under his father’s thumb, but he has to sell thirty cars by the end of the day to do it. The question is will Mark do whatever it takes, even betraying his sales team and himself in order to get what he wants?
While Mark tries to sell the cars, his father is scheming with his right hand man, Mike Reynolds (Josh Hopkins) to get the new dealership set up. Mark gets help from his friend, Boyd (Cory Hardrict), giving Mark advice on dealing with his father. Mark is also having marital issues. It’s their anniversary and his wife, Ashley (Stefanie Butler) is upset he can’t make time for her. In the meantime, the tension is heightened by issues with sales of the vehicles and high end bargaining.
One of the real delights of this film is the acting. I can’t even begin to name all the high end actors in this movie but I’m going to try. George Lopez is dynamic as Christian, one of Mark’s top sellers who even manages to make a sale while handling a trainee salesman, Green Pea (Joe Massingill). Green Pea, not his real name but he won’t get that until he makes a sale, is funny and charming as the hapless newbie. He was actually one of my favorite parts in this film. Nia Vardalos stars as Sharon who manages to steal a sale out from under the men waiting for a customer. She is charming and sexy. Cory Hardrict was compelling. Patrick J. Adams was endearing, much like his normal character on “Suits”. Both Chris Mulkey and Josh Hopkins made me dislike the characters and played them realistically. The relationship between Mark and his father was portrayed well and was believable. I also felt the friendship between Mark and Boyd was compelling and emotional. Octavia Butler was also in the movie, playing a customer that Mark has to convince to pay more for a car due to a mistake. While she was as phenomenal as you would expect, I did feel she was underutilized and could have had way more onscreen time.
The scenery was gorgeous and it was obviously filmed on location in Phoenix. The light was a bit bright at points but having it filmed in town allowed them to make use of the natural landmarks for authenticity. The story also had that realism. Anyone who’s bought a car knows how much wheeling and dealing goes into the purchase and this aspect of the movie was excellent as the salesmen jockey for customers and the negotiation tactics are explained through dialogue between the characters.
The confrontations between Mark and his father were predictable, however. While the car dealership element was well done, the storyline was not new and I could tell how the movie was going to end. In addition, it feels very much like the drama between Mark and his wife was shoehorned into the plot to heighten the tension. Instead it fell flat and some of the worst acting of the movie is between Patrick J. Adams and Stefanie Butler. Their scenes together didn’t have enough development or chemistry.
The other issue for me was Patrick J. Adams. While he did a good job acting, at times he didn’t seem to fit the movie. He felt like he was playing his part on Suits and while I imagine that his ability to be endearing and honest was what they wanted for the character, it missed the mark for me because it pulled me out of the film. I love him and would have liked to have seen something different from him. I really feel either the writing didn’t give him enough or the director didn’t push him enough. Unfortunately, that disappoints me more than anything else because he can do more.
The movie was funny, it was entertaining and authentic. If you live in Arizona and want to support a local writer, it is enjoyable. Most of the acting is really good, especially George Lopez, Chris Mulkey, and Cory Hardrict. The ending was satisfying and I liked the wheeling and dealing.
Rating: 3 stars
Read more about the making of CAR DOGS: “Car Dogs”: Teaching Filmmaking in Arizona
The son of an overbearing car dealership owner gets the chance to open his own dealership, but it would mean betraying his sales team and himself to get what he wants.
Cast: Patrick J. Adams, George Lopez, Josh Hopkins, Cory Hardrict, Dash Mihok, Nia Vardalos, Chris Mulkey,
Director: Adam Collis
Screenplay: Mark Edward King