Todd Solondz, the misanthropic mastermind behind Happiness, wants to give you the most bang for your buck. His newest venture into dyspepsia is three films in one: (1) an epilogue-like sequel to his breakout hit, Welcome to the Dollhouse, (2) a suburban American reimagining of Robert Bresson's French provincial tragedy Au Hasard Balthazar, and (3) the feel-bad comedy of the year.
The same stoic dachshund waddles her way through four vignettes about the casual cruelty of contemporary humanity. A sickly boy (Keaton Nigel Cooke) gives her a granola bar and experiences a pet owner's worst nightmare, i.e., diarrhea as far as the eye can see. Just as the dog is about to meet her maker, Dollhouse's adult Dawn Wiener (now inexplicably played by Greta Gerwig) swoops in to save her, but the union ends when a more dubiously attractive alternative arrives.
After a jaunty little animated intermission—the highlight of the whole enterprise—the dachshund falls under the care of a down-on-his-luck screenwriter (Danny DeVito), who's had it up to here with all the entitled young scribes nipping at his heels, so the dog finds her not-so-forever home with Ellen Burstyn’s cranky grandmother, who promptly names her Cancer.
The actors strike the right tragi-comic tone, but the ending is such an ill-judged bummer that it’s hard not to feel like the whole thing was a waste of time. So it’s a fantastic deal if you’re looking for something to put you in a really lousy mood.