Monday, February 09, 2009

Film Review: 'Marley & Me' – 7.0/10

Film Review: Dramedy (2008)
'Marley & Me'
Written by Joé McKen on Monday, February 09, 2008

Marley is the unintentional star at this baseball match in 20 Century Fox's 2008 family 'dramedy' Marley & Me.

I am an absolute sucker for dogs. Just about any pooch, mutt or fleabag that comes up to me will warrant itself a good petting at least, or half my lunch. It's been my dream my entire life to own a dog I can call mine, if only to have someone (or something) to come home to after school or extracurricular activities. While I don't fall in love with just any dog I see on TV or in movies, I do tend to nurse a soft spot for them. However, somehow, this just didn't happen with Marley.

I dunno why. I'm certainly not resentful against the pooch for eating half the house every thunderstorm, for driving his owner(s) to near-insanity or for ruining a dog-beach's privileges. I just didn't feel myself attach to this dog like with most others. That is a curious thing, and perhaps even a worrisome one, considering this dog, Marley, truly has everything a dog could need or require for me to fall in love with them. The reason I'm elaborating on this, is because it's the movie's entire point: to fall in love with Marley as the unlucky Grogans did. That's how you love the story as well. If I didn't love the dog, who is the story, then how can I love the movie? I can't.

But I certainly don't hate it, or dislike it in the slightest, either. It's certainly a very decent non-animated family film, one of the better we've had in a while. The fact that my heart didn't go out to it doesn't stop me from seeing a good and enjoyable flick when I see one.

Anyway, enough about me, more on the movie. As only the most obtuse of ignorants won't know by now, Marley & Me is based, fairly accurately, on the book of the same name, a eulogy for the real-world Marley written by journalist John Grogan (incarnated here by Owen Wilson). Actually, if I recall correctly, it isn't really a book, but more of a collection of the innumerable newspaper columns he wrote dedicated to Marley during the fourteen years of his career chronicling his life with his family, day-to-day routines, and keeping Marley (and himself) out of trouble as best as he could. How the journalist, once so hesitant and unenthusiastic about his bi-weekly column, became a star in his career with his ramblings about his troubled dog, is a story that truly deserved to be written in a book – but I just wonder if it deserved to be filmed. I don't know; I just don't feel a movie-worthy story concerning Marley's life. It was certainly a long, chaotic and interesting one, full of tender moments as well as moments of absolute exasperation when he'd once again eaten the garage, but worthy enough to be devoted to a film? I just don't feel it. But whatever; it's done, I saw it, I liked it, and I'm reviewing it.

Wow, I still haven't gotten to the actual story? I probably should now ... but now I think of it, what is there left to tell that you haven't already learned, either from outside sources, or reading the book, or even reading this review? It's the story of a horribly misbehaving but unconditionally-loving (and -loved) Golden Labrador and the family that was either kind or insane enough to take him in. (Hint: never go for the puppy of the litter that's at a reduced price.) For Marley, despite his endless tirade against material possessions and his masters' nerves, isn't really a bad dog per se; he's really a very nice dog, he's intelligent and caring, and sometimes pauses in between bouts of tearing up carpet or couch or drywall to stare up at his masters with the sort of eyes that make any stone heart melt (or most). He's a good dog – just not particularly disciplined. (Euphemism of the century.)

While Marley & Me may not have touched me in the way I had expected or hoped for, it certainly did, and will, for nearly everyone else who saw it, laughed with the Grogans at their dog's antics (though the latters' was rather out of exasperation, probably) and wept over the dog's eventual passing (it's not a spoiler; seriously, what, you expected the dog to live forever? Or was the term 'eulogy' in describing the book not a clear enough hint?), and in the meantime simply shook their heads in quiet disbelief while that insane dog went through scene after scene of chaos, rumble and utter destruction. But not lovelessly. Anyone in wish of seeing a good, decent and (fairly) clean family film will have a good time with Marley & Me, along with the usual pet-lovers and related neurotics. (Me included. Doggies!)

For bouncing off the screen with its warmth and situational comedy yet ending at that, I give Marley & Me 7 swallowed necklaces out of 10.

John Grogan: Owen Wilson • Jenny Grogan: Jennifer Aniston • Patrick Grogan: Nathan Gamble
Crew & Credits
Director(s): David Frankel • Writer(s): Scott Frank, Don Roos. Original novel by John Grogan. • Original Score: Theodore Shapiro
General Information
Distributed by: 20th Century Fox • Released: December 25, 2008 (US) • Running Time: 115 mins • Rated: PG


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