May 22, 2013
Written by Mark Schumann, Father of Three
Thursday, 23 April 2009 14:25
Looking for a movie to share with your family? Each week, the Reel Dad shares the “nutritional value” of a new release at the theater or on DVD. And, this week, he checks out Marley and Me, now available on DVD.
When Leann and I were first married, we had our jobs, we moved into our first house, and we soon found ourselves looking after our first canine companion. Like many pet lovers, we treated our sheltie Bogart as a member of the family and thoroughly loved most every moment of our 13 years with him. Of course, he was a dog, which meant there were floors to scratch and hair to shed and places to chew. But we overlooked what could be annoying for what was truly enjoyable. And rarely have we been without a dog in our family since.
For anyone who has loved a dog, and endured raising a puppy, there’s a lot in Marley and Me that will ring true — the family member who destroys a room, chews everything in sight, runs away and, in a sequence reminiscent of our Bogart, flunks out of obedience school. When the movie is about the dog, it works, even in its most obvious moments. But Marley and Me doesn’t have enough confidence in the dog to let the dog hold center stage. Instead — perhaps because of its cast demands — the film feels forced to leave the dog during its dreary middle act and play out a series of domestic squabbles that are as lifeless as the initial episodes are fun and the final moments are touching. The film is at its worst when it pays too much attention to the humans; it’s at its best when it’s all about the dog.
Owen Wilson and Jennifer Anniston bring their familiar personas to the roles of a young couple, both journalists, who start married life and soon add a puppy to the mix. As they begin to raise their young dog — or rather the dog begins to raise them — Wilson finds his voice as a columnist when the dog, Marley, becomes the focal point of his newspaper writing. These early sequences of the couple adjusting to the dog (and the challenges a puppy can bring) are the most fun; later, as the film turns serious, and the couple faces other life adjustments, it slows to a crawl.
The performances by the range of dogs who play Marley are actually much more credible than any of human performances (including a disastrous cameo by Kathleen Turner as an over-the-top dog trainer). Wilson walks through the role with none of the inventiveness he brings to more challenging roles and, as for Anniston, her limits as an actress lead to a repetitive performance that holds all the surprise of a Friends rerun. She is unable to elicit empathy and, when she becomes shrewish, can be painful to watch.
But Marley and Me is watchable for the dog and, for me, those moments as the dog ages and the family remembers, as sentimental as they may be, are something any dog lover can embrace. Not only do we love our dogs, but we love the part of us that loves our dogs. Last summer, when the Schumann family dog died at age 12, we promised ourselves that we would wait to replace him. But then we saw a precious puppy and the cycle started anew. Anyone who has been there will enjoy this film. Anyone who hasn’t may wonder what all the fuss is about.
* Content: Medium. The first third and the final third are appetizing — but the middle third (where the dog disappears and the humans dominate) leaves a bad taste.
* Entertainment: Medium. Somehow, the film feels incomplete, as if many more dog scenes we would have enjoyed were left on a cutting room floor.
* Message: Medium. Anyone who has a dog, or loves pets, will identify with the canine sentiment.
* Relevance: Medium. This kind of movie doesn’t try for relevance. It simply entertains and, most of the time, this one achieves that.
* Opportunity for Dialogue: Medium. If you have a pet in your family, the film does offer a chance to talk about what that family brings to you every day.
3 Popcorn Buckets
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