In a California so dreary and isolated it more closely resembles a post-apocalyptic wasteland than The OC, two young men’s struggles with fatherhood intertwine in Damion Dietz’s latest, Dog Tags.
Nate (Paul Preiss), a put-upon young man who lives with his mother and nagging girlfriend, decides to join the Marines so he can make something of himself and impress the father he never knew. Meanwhile, Andy (Bart Fletcher), a puckish emo-kid still in mourning of his US Marine ex-boyfriend, has to reconcile his wanderlust with the responsibilities of being a father when his faded-actress mother refuses to continue taking care of his infant son.
Both characters are rather oversold from the top. Is it really necessary that Nate’s girlfriend repeatedly tells him that he’s too much of a loser for him to confront his supposed father? Or that Andy is such a bad father he straight-facedly suggests smoking up in front of his son will just help the little guy fall asleep?
No matter. The pair strike up a friendship when they find themselves roped into doing amateur porn for cash —unfortunately, this scene manages to neither be funny or poignant.
From there, they agree to join each other’s quests to discover both their roots and futures, eventually ending up in bed together and teaching each other about responsibility and letting loose.
At the heart of the film are a set of really good ideas tolerably executed, but only just. Preiss and Fletcher do their best with the material, but the pace is too slack, while the drama alternates between being too slight and too extreme.
It takes far too long for the two stories to begin and then finally to intersect. If the audience is patient, it is rewarded with a largely predictable coming-of-age story that leaves both characters only moderately changed from the beginning —they remain lost, alone, and lacking identity.