There's no way Hounddog ain't a greasy gumbo of a mellerdrammer (sorry for the language, that's just the effect of too much Southern Gothic cliché gettin' to me). But Deborah Kampmeier's pulp fiction about a country girly devoted to the music of Elvis Presley in a 1950s backwoods located somewhere near Tennessee Williamsland might have stood a shot at being judged on its own Black Snake Moan terms had it starred some interesting, unknown girl, and not the famous young phenom Dakota Fanning. Then again, would this arthouse goo have gotten made if Fanning's adult team hadn't agreed it was a fine idea to let their champ wiggle in her underpants?
As it is, Hounddog is destined to be described in shorthand, now and forever, as the one where Dakota Fanning Gets Raped. Even so, that violence is only a small, relatively tastefully handled episode in a drama heaped with clichés like...like a big ol' plate of grits. Here, in one swamp, is a drunk, brain-damaged Daddy (David Morse); a twisted, sin-patrolling Granny (Piper Laurie); a battered, sad, sexy lady (Robin Wright Penn), a Wise Black Man (Afemo Omilami) who teaches our heroine about the real, black man's blues music (none of this Elvis hooey); and lots of snakes. Under the circumstances, Fanning is remarkably collected and even dignified. As for the rest of the gang, they ought to be returned to sender. F