Lawn Dogs (1997) from Tuna and Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

 Two thumbs up from us for this ingenious, eccentric film.


Tuna's notes

Lawn Dogs takes place in the secure, upscale community of Camelot Gardens, where Devon Stockard (Mischa Barton in her first feature film) and her parents have just arrived. We learn that she has congenital heart problems, but is now OK because of a pacemaker. Mom and dad are trying to fit in, but Devon shows her true (and odd) colors immediately. When she and her mother are baking cookies for charity, her job is to push two raisins into each cookie, but when a fly lands on one, she pushes in the fly. Devon is very much a free spirit. When she sees her mother having sex with a college kid, she reacts by peeing down her father's windshield, then climbing out on her roof and stripping, then howling at the moon. Thus, Misha Barton did nudity in this film, but she was 11 years old at the time.

Devon forms a friendship with Sam Rockwell, the "Lawn Dog" who mows lawns between sunrise and 5 pm, when all such undesirables are run out by the resident head of security. Devon thinks she has found a kindred spirit, and incorporates Sam into the fairy tale she creates to make her life more bearable. The two become close friends, but with the security officer of  Camelot Gardens after Rockwell, and two college boys hating him, it is clear that their friendship will work only as long as it remains their secret.

Sam lives in a trailer on county property just outside Camelot Gardens. On the way home from work one day, he stops on a one lane bridge, strips completely naked, and jumps into the river. He has a large audience by the time he walks back to his truck, and Angie Harmon likes what she sees, so Sam and Angie decide to get better acquainted. While Sam is good for sex, Angie won't be seen with him, so they head back to his trailer. This all happens on the very same day when young Devon becomes determined to see Sam's home. When Devon finds his trailer and peeks in the window, Harmon has just finished having sex with him, and she sees what we see - Harmon's breast.

Mischa Barton had to carry most of the film, and she did so effortlessly. Sam Rockwell was also excellent. There is a great deal of humor in the film, but IMDb calls it a drama because the main thrust of the film is the contrast between the lower class but classy Sam Rockwell, and the upper class, no-class residents of Camelot Gardens.



  • No features except the original trailer
  • the transfer is anamorphically enhanced, and is not especially vivid



Sam Rockwelll - the whole monty

Angie Harmon - one breast

Scoop's notes

You might really like this film if you have a taste for the offbeat. It has a surreal charm, and a certain magic to it. It may not be a great film, but represents some great filmmaking in many ways, and I liked it a lot. It was directed by John Duigan, the Australian director who did Sirens. Duigan hasn't ever struck paydirt with a big hit, but I think he might if he'd move a hair closer to the mainstream. He has lots of talent, but he's stayed with offbeat and stylized material which is often coldly satirical, although Lawn Dogs and Sirens do have warmth in the sympathetic characters. Lawn Dogs polarizes the world into those with magic and warmth, and those with mechanical and shallow lives. This sounds a bit juvenile when I describe it, but you have to understand that the movie is realized through a child's eyes, so the simplistic black-and-white thinking makes sense in context.

The Critics Vote ...

  • Super-panel consensus out of four stars: two stars. James Berardinelli 2.5/4, Roger Ebert 1.5/4. Reviewers were sharply divided on this movie. Ebert and Berardinelli panned it, but they were in the minority. (See below.)

The People Vote ...

  • Box Office Mojo. It never reached more than twelve theaters and grossed about $100,000. The budget was more than $5 million.
The meaning of the IMDb score: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence equivalent to about three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, comparable to approximately two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, equivalent to about a two star rating from the critics, or a C- from our system. Films rated below five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film - this score is roughly equivalent to one and a half stars from the critics or a D on our scale. (Possibly even less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

Our own guideline:

  • A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre.
  • B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. Any film rated B- or better is recommended for just about anyone. In order to rate at least a B-, a film should be both a critical and commercial success. Exceptions: (1) We will occasionally rate a film B- with good popular acceptance and bad reviews, if we believe the critics have severely underrated a film. (2) We may also assign a B- or better to a well-reviewed film which did not do well at the box office if we feel that the fault lay in the marketing of the film, and that the film might have been a hit if people had known about it. (Like, for example, The Waterdance.)
  • C+ means it has no crossover appeal, but will be considered excellent by people who enjoy this kind of movie. If this is your kind of movie, a C+ and an A are indistinguishable to you.
  • C means it is competent, but uninspired genre fare. People who like this kind of movie will think it satisfactory. Others probably will not.
  • C- indicates that it we found it to be a poor movie, but genre addicts find it watchable. Any film rated C- or better is recommended for fans of that type of film, but films with this rating should be approached with caution by mainstream audiences, who may find them incompetent or repulsive or both. If this is NOT your kind of movie, a C- and an E are indistinguishable to you.
  • D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. We don't score films below C- that often, because we like movies and we think that most of them have at least a solid niche audience. Now that you know that, you should have serious reservations about any movie below C-. Films rated below C- generally have both bad reviews and poor popular acceptance.
  • E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre.
  • F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well.


Based on this description, this film is a C+, a very interesting and offbeat film.

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