2018 Milwaukee Film Festival – Review – PICK OF THE LITTER
There are few bets as sure in cinema as dogs. PICK OF THE LITTER doubles down on that bet with a whole litter of puppies who are being groomed to be guide dogs for the blind in this brand new documentary. There are happy greetings, bittersweet goodbyes, and hope that all the effort will go on to change someone’s life for the better. It’s a surefire audience-pleaser and you would be well advised to bring tissues.
It’s hard not to fall in love with the puppies of PICK OF THE LITTER whom we’re introduced to right at birth. They’re a gorgeous group of black and yellow Labrador retrievers, christened Patriot, Potomac, Phil, Poppet, and Primrose. They’re energetic, friendly, and each has a distinct personality. You can’t help rooting for them and investing in them going all the way through training instead of washing out and being “career changed”. It’s like being smothered in a warm blanket for an hour and a half.
Alas, it kind of settles for only being a glorified reality show contest at points where who washes out and who advances is the driving narrative. Save for a foster trainer who is a veteran suffering from PTSD, none of the human characters are shown with much depth or dimension and the most we really learn about them is that it’s hard turning over a foster dog. PICK OF THE LITTER kind of takes the easy way out with low hanging emotional moments time and again without really diving into the process and work and without examining how the personalities of the trainers rub off on the dogs and vice versa. Everybody is well meaning.
None of that makes PICK OF THE LITTER a bad film. It just makes it a pleasant film that doesn’t dive in as deep as it could and kind of only plays at a surface level. If you love dogs, and who doesn’t, there’s a ton present to reinforce that love. But, there’s almost too much of a good thing and the reality competition narrative template feels a little out of place.
PICK OF THE LITTER is part of the Milwaukee Film Festival’s Spotlight Presentation Program. It’s going to emerge as the favorite of a lot of people.
PICK OF THE LITTER plays twice more at the 2018 Milwaukee Film Festival on Tuesday, October 23 at 1:30 pm at the Jan Serr Studio Cinema and on Saturday, October 27 at 2:30 pm at the Oriental Theatre. The way it’s selling out, you may have to settle for the rush line and hope.
The 2018 Milwaukee Film Festival runs from October 18, 2018 to November 1, 2018. Information and tickets can be found at Milwaukee Film’s website.