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Marley and Me (A PopEntertainment.com Movie Review)

Marley and Me

MARLEY AND ME (2008)

Starring Owen Wilson, Jennifer Aniston, Eric Dane, Kathleen Turner, Alan Arkin, Nathan Gamble, Haley Bennett, Clarke Peters, Finley Jacobsen, Lucy Merriam, Bryce Robinson, Benjamin Hyland, Sarah O’Kelly, Keith Hudson, Haley Hudson and Joyce Van Patten.

Screenplay by Scott Frank and Don Roos.

Directed by David Frankel.

Distributed by 20th Century Fox. 125 minutes. Rated PG.

Marley and Me is cute, funny, chaotic and shamelessly manipulative. It fetishizes dog ownership, marriage and parenthood and celebrates family values at their most white bread, and yet it is mostly an enjoyable movie.

Based on the writings of former Philadelphia Inquirer writer John Grogan about his life with “the world’s worst dog,” the movie covers over a decade in the life of a young couple as they grow from unemployed newlyweds to respected journalists and happy parents.

The film starts as John and Jen Grogan move from snowy Michigan down to sunny Florida, looking for jobs as reporters – which they find in separate papers. Jen – the more rational, mature one of the two – takes off quickly while John is stuck covering school board meetings and obituaries.

When Jen’s biological clock starts ticking, John decided to do a trial run by adapting an adorable-but-rambunctious Labrador retriever. The high-spirited dog brings chaos into their orderly life – he eats everything from sofa cushions to lingerie, howls whenever it rains, runs wild at the slightest provocation and humps everything that moves.

Anyone who has ever had a pet knows what will happen, despite the fact that he is “incorrigible” (the script’s word, not mine) he will melt his owners’ hearts and quickly become an integral part of the family.

This section of Marley and Me is actually mostly very enjoyable. The usually smug and insufferable Owen Wilson does a pretty good job here as John Grogan, his loose shaggy charm informing his character rather than overwhelming it. Jennifer Aniston is terrific as his wife, but then again, she is always good as patient-but-supportive wives.

The movie sort of downshifts as the Grogans start having children – causing marital strife and professional turnover – but causing the movie to lose track of its supposed calling card. Marley’s misbehavior becomes less and less significant, soon he is just another part of a busy and somewhat out of control household. And, frankly, the Grogans’ children are not nearly as interesting as Marley.

Then, suddenly, towards the end of the film it makes a sharp right turn into tear-jerking pathos as Marley grows aged and infirm. Yes, I know that is how life goes, but still there is a special place reserved in hell for filmmakers who use the possibility of the death of children or small animals to wring tears from their audiences.

Nevertheless, for all the manipulation Marley is so cute and his relationship with his family so realistic that pet owners will lap it up. Like the dog it is based on, Marley and Me is sometimes chaotic, sometimes cutesy, sometimes too loud or rambunctious and sometimes just plain bad but does have lots of energy and a good heart.

Alex Diamond

Copyright ©2009 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved. Posted: March 14, 2009.

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