Monday, May 4, 2009

Marley & Me

Marley & Me
2008. Rated PG, 115 minutes.
Director: David Frankel. Starring Owen Wilson, Jennifer Aniston, Alan Arkin, Kathleen Turner, Eric Dane, Jonah.

Plot: Before having children, young couple John and Jenny Grogan (Wilson and Aniston, respectively) get a yellow Labrador puppy that they name Marley, after reggae icon Bob Marley. Doggy hijinks and family life ensues.

The Good: There are a lot of funny scenes. The movie gets a ton of mileage out of Marley being disobedient, destroying things and/or eating them. Just as that starts to wear thin, we see a family struggling through growing pains and it feels real. The pacing is a major plus. Director David Frankel does a great job speeding up and slowing down his movie at appropriate times.

The Bad: It wants to be an overwhelming tear-jerker but it fails to make us love the dog. Even worse, it struggles to make us believe the people in the movie love him. We get that there's a certain level of attachment. However, he's so much trouble and wreaks so much havoc on their lives it feels like they keep him around out of a sense of obligation rather than really wanting to. It tries to show us a powerful bond between Marley and the Grogan children but none of them are given any meaningful screen time until it's too late in the picture. It doesn't help that our "dramatic conclusion" is an inevitability we dreadfully trudge toward rather than a singular event that knocks the wind from our chests.

The Ugly: What Marley does when he's finally let loose on "Dog Beach."

Recommendation: It's a fun movie that's at times a bit racier than its PG rating suggest. I only mention that because it is marketed as a family film. While it's having fun, it waits to long to start trying to manipulate us for the big moment and misses it's mark. Then again, I suppose if you're naturally a dog lover, which I'm not, you'll buy into it a little easier. Or you're very similar to my 6 year old daughter who did, in fact, shed a few tears.

The Opposite View: Peter Bradshaw, The Guardian (UK)

What the Internet Says: 7.2/10 on (4/11/09), 60% on, 53/100 on

MY SCORE: 6/10

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