Who Let the Dogs Out is an hour-long documentary, and yet it feels just as powerful as any longer counterpart. Well, powerful isn’t the right word. There’s nothing powerful about one man’s obsessive dive into the history of one-hit-wonder from more than 20 years ago. And yet, the documentary is the perfect length, delivering a tight story that somehow, in the end, delivers a life-affirming message about the nature of art, creativity, and just how interconnected the entire world really is.
Who Let the Dogs Out? may start off as a quirky little film to watch on a Saturday night when you’ve got nothing else to do, but by the end it becomes something more. There may not be much to it in length but there is definitely something special there.
Who Let the Dogs Out
Director: Brent Hodge
Release Date: March 9, 2019 (SXSW Premiere)
It’s important to note that neither the film’s title nor the title of the song is actually demarcated as a question by having a question mark at the end of the statement. Sure, we all say it as a question but it isn’t. However, for this film it most definitely is. “Who let the dogs out?” is almost a thesis that spirals from a humorous look at a pop song into something much deeper, tackling themes of artistic creation and interconnectivity while still playing it fun.
The film is based on a presentation that “Who Let the Dogs Out” fanatic Ben Sisto gives. In fact, his narration at one of this serves as the narration for the film, as the movie cuts in and out of interviews and archival footage to his talk and slides. It’s like watching an excessively well-done power point presentation, but one that doesn’t’ get boring halfway through.
Sisto was out of work and surfing the Internet in a local library in 2008 when he noticed that the Wikipedia page for “Who Let the Dogs Out” noted that the song was discovered by a hairstylist named Keith. Given his boredom and lack of direction in life at the moment he decided he’d find out the last name of Keith and update the Wikipedia page. What he found instead of was an incredibly deep hole of mystery around who actually came up with the song’s eternally catchy hook (it’s stuck in your head right now).
As we hop around the world, following the lineage of people saying, “Who let the dogs out. Woof woof woof woof,” the documentary takes a playful tone. Interviews are conducted with the myriad of people who had a hand in creating the hook that lead to a pop sensation for a brief time 20 years ago. The mixing up of talking heads, presentation, and archival footage never feels old, partially because we only have an hour with it, but also because it is truly interesting to see Sisto follow the breadcrumbs of creation. The birth of the song takes us to places as varied as London, the Bahamas, and rural Michigan.
It is kind of magic. That may sound ridiculous given the film’s subject matter, but when you peel back the layers, underneath you find a profound view of art. Who Let the Dogs Out isn’t some life-changing documentary on the scale of For Sama, but for one hour it easily entertains and, more importantly, brings something more to the table. The best documentary takes our misconceptions and shows us the truth. Who Let the Dogs Out does this by taking a pop song and delivering a treatise on the very nature of art.