Rated PG. Click here to view the trailer.
WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD.
Over the long Christmas holiday, I stumbled across this ridiculously cute puppy. Besides reminding my family of me sitting in the pew on Sunday morning, it rekindled some small desire in my heart to to get a dog.
Marley pooped all over that desire. I am now terrified at the idea of owning a dog.
Marley – as I’m sure you’re aware – is the titular hound from the depths of hell in the latest man-and-his-dog movie, Marley & Me. Yeah, he’s cute, but only for about two minutes. Then he instantly becomes an inexplicably destructive whirling dervish of a dog that utterly obliterates anything and everything. His resume includes digesting answering machines, diapers linoleum flooring and drywall. He makes Beethoven look like the obedience school apple-polishing valedictorian. Seriously, Job has nothing on John and Jen Grogan. It’s not funny, it’s terrifying.
And there’s positively no reason for the Grogans (Owen Wilson and Jennifer Aniston) to love or even tolerate Marley’s behavior. If he had pulled a Lassie and pulled her out of a burning building or maybe brought Wilson’s character the morning paper even once, I could maybe see keeping him and putting up with his epic shenanigans, but Marley has absolutely zero redeeming qualities. He’s supposed to die fighting a cougar, not go quietly into that good night because of a twisted stomach. All I can say in his defense is that he does not eat the Grogan children (although he does knock them down).
Surprisingly, I can offer more in defense of the movie as a whole. It look to be a trite, subpar holiday pablum, but it’s a real movie, even if the the family’s love for the Attila the Dog is inexplicable. I can honestly say I didn’t hate it.
Owen Wilson wouldn’t be my pick for a lead in a family comedy, but he’s not horrible. However, he does have that stupid surfer haircut that doesn’t change even through he supposedly ages 20 years on screen. His nose is overwhelming when you have to sit on the second row. He and Aniston (who also doesn’t appear to age a day) are actually kinda funny as they try to navigate life, marriage and their careers as Miami journalists. Lucy Merriam, the actress who plays their four-year-old daughter is cute. She delivers an adorable eulogy.
Here’s the weird thing: It’s not really about the dog. It’s mostly about how Grogan can’t be satisfied with his amazingly high-paying job. He learns tolerance and life lessons (apparently) from Marley for the first two acts but the dog is missing from a large part of the final 40 minutes. I’m sure John Grogan is a nice guy, but I really don’t care to see a movie about him whine about a cushy, high paying job at the South Florida Sun-Sentinel and living in a nice home in Boca.
The movie is based on the best-selling non-fiction book of the same name, some of my gripes about the movie’s faults can be explained by falling back on the it’s-based-on-real-life defense. However, good books don’t always make good movies without changes and embellishments, sometimes large ones (case in point, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button). The story was too long, and Marley needs a hero moment. He had his chance when the Grogans‘ neighbor gets stabbed out of nowhere, but Marley just sits there chewing the curtains. The non-dog moments should have been tighter.
Still, the movie works because it’s not a zany, slap stick, Jim Carey-type of movie. Like any good dog, it is earnest and that earns you lots of capital in my book. Maybe that’s what the Grogans saw in Marley.