Steve Carell continues to fill up his post-“The Office” slate, and he’s lined up a dramedy that will find him talking to dogs. Let us explain.
Mandate Pictures has announced that Steve Carell is set to star in “Dogs of Babel,” based on the best selling novel by Carolyn Parkhurst. Adapted by Jamie Linden (“Ten Year,” “Dear John,” “We Are Marshall“) the story follows linguistics professor Paul Iverson (Carell) who comes home one day to find his wife dead in the backyard. The police rule the death as an accident but Paul isn’t quite sure and since the family dog, Lorelei, is the only witness to what happened he endeavours to teach her to talk so she can tell him exactly what happened.
It seems like a project perfectly suited for Carell’s everyman persona, one that he has embodied very well in other comedy/drama fare like “Dan In Real Life.” Our concern is the script by Linden, whose past credits reveal he certainly turns out the manipulative water works when he has to do, but we hope he has a bit more of a subtle hand here. No word yet on when this will do in front of cameras, but we presume it will be prior to Carell’s work “Great Hope Springs” with Meryl Streep set to shoot in August. Check out a longer synopsis of the story from Amazon below:
It’s a terrific high concept: a woman falls from a backyard tree and dies; the only witness is the family dog, a Rhodesian Ridgeback. To find out what happened-accident? suicide?-her grieving husband tries to teach the dog to talk. Parkhurst’s debut novel has been getting a lot of pre-pub attention, probably mostly for this concept, because the execution of this first novel is flawed. The tantalizing prospect of linguistics professor Paul Iverson attempting to teach Lorelei to talk is given short, and erratically plotted, shrift. Paul’s narration oscillates between his present-day experiences and the backstory of his romance with Lexy Ransome, a mask maker. The two meet when Paul drops by Lexy’s yard sale, buys a device for shaping hard-boiled eggs into squares, then returns with a bunch of square eggs (“And we stood there smiling, with the plate between us, the egg-cubes glowing palely in the growing dark”). This incident, a maxi-combo of cute and sentimental, defines much of the couple’s love story (on their first date, Lexy whisks them off to DisneyWorld), marking much of this novel as a sentimental, manipulative romance not unlike James Patterson’s Suzanne’s Diary for Nicholas; some readers will adore it, while others will gag even as the pages darken toward tragedy. Few will relish the sketchy account of Paul’s work with the dog, which goes nowhere until it veers, bizarrely and unbelievably, toward an underground group performing illegal surgical experiments on dogs. Parkhurst is a fluid stylist, and there are memorable moments here, as well as some terrific characters (particularly the enigmatic Lexy), but one gets the sense of an author trying to stuff every notion she’s ever had into her first book, with less than splendid results.