When they get married, reporters John Grogan (Owen Wilson) and his new bride Jenny (Jennifer Aniston) picture themselves setting the Fourth Estate on fire. Eventually, they end up in South Florida where she handles hot button political and social stories. He, on the other hand, is relegated to writing about building fires and lame local oddities. When his sourpuss editor (Alan Arkin) offers him a column, John is unsure what to do. Taking inspiration from the new dog named Marley he just adopted, our scribe is soon scribbling stories about how this cute-as-a-button Labrador retriever is evil incarnate. Labeled "the world's worst dog," Marley lives up to the title. Even as the Grogans grow older and raise a family, they still don't know what to do with their destructive hound from Hell.
Marley and Me is mush. If the orphans in Oliver Twist were served this particular brand of syrupy slop, they'd refuse seconds and secretly discard the portion they already had. This is warm and fuzzy as crass and calculated. Director David Frankel, who did a much better job of bringing Lauren Weisberg's The Devil Wear Prada to the silver screen, bifurcates everything, from the Grogans' newlywed dilemmas (she's successful, he's not) to the overriding troubles with Marley (he's adorable, and then deplorable). Nowhere is there a balance. Nowhere do we feel like the endless angst that John feels over his career will have any bearing on how Marley likes to eat drywall and drink from the commode.
The dog is really nothing more than comic relief here -- and he's a poor laugh-getter at that. After all, is there anything new or novel about a pup that pees on the floor, howls when he's alone, and chases after anything smaller than him? Are we supposed to find the endless arguments between Wilson and the certified entertainment void Aniston interesting or compelling? While set in the '80s and '90s, there is very little to indicate the era we're in, and both actors toss in euphemisms and sayings straight out of a 2008 improv manual. Even the formerly fetching Kathleen Turner is forced to play fat, angry, and monstrous. As a domineering dog trainer, she gets a single shocking scene and then disappears.
But the most appalling part of this film is the ending. Without spoiling too much (readers of the book, and anyone with common sense, already knows what happens), a decision must be made about an aging Marley, and for several intolerable minutes we watch as owner and doctor go about their... "business." It makes the finale of The Mist seem upbeat by comparison. In the grand scheme of mass marketing ideas, who thought watching a favored pet "buy the farm" in exacting, step-by-step detail was a good idea? Brian's Song didn't have this protracted of a sendoff for James Caan. Overlong and overwrought, Marley and Me doesn't do its source material justice. Instead of being heartwarming, it's soul crushing.
Release the hounds!!!
Run time: 115 mins
In Theaters: Thursday 25th December 2008
Box Office USA: $143.1M
Box Office Worldwide: 15
Distributed by: 20th Century Fox
Production compaines: Fox 2000 Pictures, Regency Enterprises, Sunswept Entertainment
Contactmusic.com: 1.5 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 63%
Fresh: 87 Rotten: 51
IMDB: 7.1 / 10
Director: David Frankel
Producer: Gil Netter, Kevin Halloran, Karen Rosenfelt
Starring: Owen Wilson as John Grogan, Jennifer Aniston as Jennifer Grogan, Eric Dane as Sebastian Tunney, Kathleen Turner as Ms. Kornblut, Alan Arkin as Arnie Klein, Nathan Gamble as Patrick (Age 10), Haley Bennett as Lisa, Ann Dowd as Dr. Platt, Clarke Peters as Editor, Finley Jacobsen as Conor (Age 8), Lucy Merriam as Colleen (Age 5), Bryce Robinson as Patrick (Age 7), Ben Hyland as Conor (Age 5), Sarah O'Kelly as Neighbor Mom, Keith Hudson as Big Guy, Haley Hudson as Debby, Tom Irwin as Dr. Sherman, Alec Mapa as Jorge, Sandy Martin as Lori, Joyce Van Patten as Mrs. Butterly, Zabryna Guevara as OB-GYN Nurse, Megan Grace as Secretary, Haley Higgins as Shannon, Ana Ayora as Viviana, Matthew J. Walters as Billy, Nicole Herold as Sunbather, Paul Tei as Dude, Gaston Renaud as Metro Reporter, Angelina Assereto as Waitress, Emmett Robin as Boy, Lisa Varga as Still Photographer, Dylan Henry as Patrick (Age 3), Stephen Lee Davis as Neighbor Steve, Michael Baskin as Party Guy Michael, Bradley Frishman as Patrick (Age 20 Months), Eric Conger as Newscaster
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