How to Kill Your Neighbor's Dog

How to Kill Your Neighbor's Dog is a 2000 American black comedy film written and directed by Michael Kalesniko and produced by Michael Nozik, Nancy M. Ruff and Brad Weston. It stars Kenneth Branagh and Robin Wright Penn.

How To Kill Your Neighbor's Dog
Release Poster
Directed byMichael Kalesniko
Produced byMichael Nozik
Nancy M. Ruff
Brad Weston
Written byMichael Kalesniko
StarringKenneth Branagh
Robin Wright Penn
Music byDavid Robbins
CinematographyHubert Taczanowski
Edited byPamela Martin
Distributed byLonsdale Productions
Release date
  • February 22, 2002 (2002-02-22) (United States; limited)
Running time
107 minutes
CountryUnited States
Box office$48,564


Peter McGowan (Kenneth Branagh) is a chain-smoking, impotent, insomniac British playwright who lives in Los Angeles. Once very successful, he is now in the tenth year of a decade-long string of production failures. His latest play is in the hands of effeminate director Brian Sellars (David Krumholtz), who is obsessed with Petula Clark; his wife Melanie (Robin Wright Penn) is determined to have a baby; he finds himself bonding with a new neighbor's lonely young daughter (Suzi Hofrichter) who has mild cerebral palsy; and during one of his middle-of-the-night strolls, he encounters his oddball doppelgänger (Jared Harris) who claims to be Peter McGowan and develops a friendship of sorts with him.



Petula Clark's recordings of "I Couldn't Live Without Your Love" and "A Groovy Kind of Love" were heard during the opening and closing credits respectively, and "Downtown 99", a disco remix of her 1964 classic "Downtown", was heard during a party scene. Additional songs originally recorded by Petula Clark were sung by the character of Brian Sellars throughout the film.

Critical response

In his review in The New York Times, Stephen Holden described the film as "a Hollywood rarity, a movie about an icy grown-up heart-warmed by a child that doesn't wield emotional pliers to try to squeeze out tears…. It is a tribute to Mr. Branagh's considerable comic skills that he succeeds in making a potentially insufferable character likable by infusing him with the same sly charm that Michael Caine musters to seduce us into cozying up to his sleazier alter egos…. Mr. Kalesniko's satirically barbed screenplay, whose spirit harks back to the comic heyday of Blake Edwards, stirs up an insistent verbal energy that rarely flags."[1]

Owen Gleiberman of Entertainment Weekly rated the movie B and said, "Branagh, in his most forceful non-Shakespeare screen performance, grounds even the softest moments in the angry revolt of his wit."[2] Justine Elias of The Village Voice stated it was "slight but unendurable…its fractured time frame gets confusing".[3]

The film was the prestigious closing night film at the 2000 Toronto International Film Festival and won multiple festival awards. It was released as Mad Dogs and Englishmen in Australia.


  1. Holden, Stephen (February 22, 2002). "Film Review; A Tale of 2 Neighbors, Both Pains in the Neck". The New York Times. Retrieved June 19, 2016.
  2. Gleiberman, Owen. "How to Kill Your Neighbor's Dog". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved June 19, 2016.
  3. Elias, Justine. "Criminal Mischief". The Village Voice. New York. Retrieved June 19, 2016.
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