Marley & Me

Movie Information

The Story: The tale of a growing family and their unruly dog, and the life lessons that come with both. The Lowdown: A meandering, sloppy affair that’s more concerned with tricking the audience into waterworks than actually creating sympathetic characters or an involving plot.
Score:

Genre: Family Comedy/Drama With Dog
Director: David Frankel (The Devil Wears Prada)
Starring: Owen Wilson, Jennifer Aniston, Eric Dane, Alan Arkin, Kathleen Turner
Rated: PG

Since David Frankel’s Marley & Me is a movie made purely for people who like to “ooh” and “ahh” at the mere sight of a puppy, I can’t say that I’m really the film’s target demographic. Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against dogs—as long as they’re not jumping on me or I haven’t accidentally stepped in their leavings—but my heart doesn’t exactly melt at the adorableness of canines.

Even if the latter were the case, I doubt I could find much to recommend about Marley & Me. Based on John Grogan’s bestselling memoir of the same name, the movie tells the story of Grogan (Owen Wilson, who looks absolutely nothing like the real-life Grogan), his wife (Jennifer Aniston) and their out-of-control yellow Labrador named Marley. The movie follows Grogan’s beginnings as a Florida journalist to his writing a column consisting mostly of stories about Marley, spanning approximately 15 years (and unchanging haircuts) and attempting to show all the trials, tribulations and life lessons of family, career and growing old.

The downside is that none if it seems to mesh, let alone be very interesting. The inclusion of Marley is fine for dog lovers and those who understand the ups and downs of pet ownership, but what other purpose does he serve? Additionally, the film’s dramatic tension boils down to some suburban ennui, postpartum depression, some sort of vague midlife crisis and other various exciting adventures in the lives of happy, middle-class suburbanites.

All of this is mixed with some broad doggie slapstick—he chews up dry wall, wrecks their house, steals whole turkeys and so on and so forth—and various lowbrow humor, like Marley tackling Kathleen Turner and humping the poor woman (which is still less embarrassing than starring in Baby Geniuses). The movie culminates with a tear-jerking, bittersweet ending that’s some of the most schmaltzy, manipulative filmmaking imaginable, complete with crying tots and the requisite syrupy score. But then again, it probably takes someone with a warmer heart and a stronger fortitude than mine to not be amused by the image of Owen Wilson trying his damnedest to emote over a sick dog.

In the end, it all adds to the disingenuous feeling that Marley & Me creates, since nothing about it quite fits. No one—other than Marley—ages. The closest anyone gets is Owen Wilson parting his hair in the middle. The least they could’ve done is given him a weedy mustache. Even as Marley gets older, it’s obvious it’s not the same dog. And the early ‘90s period of the beginning of the movie never feels right. Everything comes across as phony, lazy filmmaking that trades on the generic cutesiness of its subject as opposed to even a modicum of craftsmanship.

Aside from one scene that oddly mimics a sequence from Roger Avary’s The Rules of Attraction (2002), there’s little of interest in Marley & Me. (And I’m still trying to figure out why one would evoke in a family comedy a movie that revolves around promiscuous sex and rampant recreational drug use.) However, judging by the box-office haul the movie took in over the holiday weekend, this isn’t likely to dissuade many from seeing it. It’s safe and unexciting enough to make a ton of money. Rated PG for thematic material, some suggestive content and language.

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16 thoughts on “Marley & Me

  1. Sean Williams

    I can’t say that I’m really the film’s target demographic.

    Mr. Hanke has taught you well, sir.

  2. Ken Hanke

    Mr. Hanke has taught you well, sir.

    A lot of it’s natural talent.

  3. Sean Williams

    I’m sure. I was just joking, actually — that first line sounded so perfectly Hankian!

  4. Ken Hanke

    Well, it may well be. That said, I’d rather take credit for him understanding the need for making that kind of disclosure — without which you’re being dishonest. At the same time, I don’t think I probably deserve the credit for that either. When Justin gets back to the world of the online (he has an ailing computer and has been unable to figure out how to make his wireless connection work with the laptop I loaned him), he may have something to say about this.

  5. Ken Hanke

    you, me,and dupree with a dog?

    I think that’s illegal most places.

  6. Justin Souther

    he may have something to say about this.

    I can’t say I’ll truly sound “Hankian” until I start mixing in dialogue from Help! into my everyday conversation.

  7. Ken Hanke

    I can’t say I’ll truly sound “Hankian” until I start mixing in dialogue from Help! into my everyday conversation

    I should note that Mr. Souther and I — being the wild party animals that we are — spent New Year’s Eve watching Help! (after my wife informed us that the original plan of watching The Hours was too depressing). As a result, he noted that certain phrases in my every day lexicon seem to have come from an overfamiliarity with the film. Two points — one: Mr. Souther hasn’t the ear for remembering dialogue, and two: you’re not properly Hankian until you start dropping random quotations from Goon Show episodes into conversation, quite regardless of any actual connection to said conversation. When that happens…well, then it’s too late.

    I see that this thread has gone completely off-topic, which is almost certainly preferable to discussing Marley and Me.

  8. Sean Williams

    you’re not properly Hankian until you start dropping random quotations from Goon Show episodes into conversation

    I don’t wish to know that!

    being the wild party animals that we are

    Did you snack on Christmas goodies while you watched? You have no idea how much weight I gained over the holidays just by eating Twizzler’s. I must be careful of how many of them I eat!

    When Justin gets back to the world of the online

    Well, he only rarely interacts with posters — only in the mating season.

  9. Ken Hanke

    Well, he only rarely interacts with posters—only in the mating season.

    That’s because he’s off selling contraband saxophones to the Indians.

    As for the snacking question, I think Justin may have. I mostly sat there feeling vaguely depressed at how young the Beatles were.

  10. Justin Souther

    As for the snacking question, I think Justin may have.

    I had a pack of Reece’s Cups. I hope everyone can sleep soundly now.

  11. Ken Hanke

    I hope everyone can sleep soundly now.

    Well, I feel better anyway.

  12. luluthebeast

    Mary made me go see this. I was hoping for an “Old Yeller” moment, but it never came!

  13. Ken Hanke

    I was hoping for an “Old Yeller” moment, but it never came!

    Chester, you have a very wicked sense of humor sometimes. It’s very endearing.

  14. luluthebeast

    At least you understand it Ken, Mary just thinks I’m sick!

  15. Ken Hanke

    At least you understand it Ken, Mary just thinks I’m sick!

    Well, whoever said sick can’t be endearing?

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