The Week in Film by Robert Mann – Week Starting 13/3/09

Marley & Me **½

Following up such films as Bolt, Hotel For Dogs and Beverly Hills Chihuahua, here comes the latest dog canine themed family movie to reach British cinema screens following a wildly successful run at the US box office. Based on the book by John Grogan, which itself was based on his own newspaper column in which he made his own humorous observations about everyday life, including charting the antics of his pet dog Marley, Marley & Me is a stark contrast to those aforementioned films in that it is firmly a real world movie as opposed to the more fantastical approaches taken with those other films.

John (Owen Wilson) and Jennifer (Jennifer Aniston) Grogan are two newspaper writers
who move to Florida after their wedding to begin their life together. It isn’t long before Jennifer wants to have a baby but John doesn’t feel ready for that step so he gets her a puppy in an attempt to stall her biological clock. John and Jennifer immediately feel a bond forming with the puppy they choose, who they name Marley, and soon they have welcomed him into their home. However, Marley is full of energy and is lacking in discipline, and begins making their lives very difficult. Their bond is strong though and as Marley grows bigger and bigger, whilst not gaining any self-discipline, John and Jennifer’s love for him never goes away. Marley’s antics also give John rich material for his newspaper column in which he offer a humorous perspective on everyday life. As the Grogans mature and their family grows, with three children coming over the years, Marley remains at their side, and the bond that he shares with the family remains until the very end.

The choice of director for Marley & Me seemed very promising. David Frankel previously directed another journalist themed film in the form of The Devil Wears Prada with the result showing that he is a very capable and talented director. Sadly, however, his latest directorial effort is a long way from that film, although this isn’t really through any fault of his own but rather the fact that the source material doesn’t translate to the big screen in a wholly successful manner. When the film works it is very charming and thoughtful and will be certain to move even the most hard-hearted of individuals, but the film doesn’t settle for this, and strives to be more. This is where the problems lie. Combining elements of comedy, romance and drama, the film attempts to be more than all of these but is not wholly successful in blending them together, with the film not being funny enough to really be considered a comedy, lacking too much in the romance department to really be considered a romance and not being nearly engaging enough to be successful as a drama. As such, the film suffers from an identity crisis. The film as a whole would certainly work better if either one direction had been chosen of the three elements had been blended together with a greater degree of success. Another problem is that while the film has been heavily marketed towards a family audience it may be too slow moving for really young children who will likely find it rather boring at times while also too lacking for mature viewers who may find it to be too lacking in substance. However, while the flaws are evident, the film is certainly not without its positive aspects. Marley himself is totally cute and adorable and it is hard not to be won over by his charm, even when he is being an extremely bad dog. And, even as he gets bigger he never ceases to be so delightful. Owen Wilson and Jennifer Aniston make for a very charming and endearing couple and for the most part they are also quite a believable couple, making everything that happens seem completely realistic. Their performances could be classified as love it or hate it though, with people who don’t particularly like either of them best steering clear of this film. The story the film tells is so nice that it is hard to find faults with it on a base level. Essentially being about life as much as a dog, the film reflects effectively the way things change in the real world. It is just a feel-good story that comes straight from real life, even though it has undoubtedly been sanitised for the big screen. In virtually every regard this is a ‘nice’ film and anyone who wants to see something light and cheerful will get some appreciation out of it. Overall, Marley & Me is a film that undeniably has charm but while it is certainly ‘nice’ and has a number of merits it just doesn’t feel like a wholly satisfying trip to the cinema. However, anyone looking for a basic feel-good flick or anyone who loves dogs will get more appreciation out of it and should add one star on to my rating.


Review by Robert Mann BA (Hons)

© BRWC 2010.

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Alton loves film. He is founder and Editor In Chief of BRWC.  Some of the films he loves are Rear Window, Superman 2, The Man With The Two Brains, Clockwise, Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind, Trading Places, Stir Crazy and Punch-Drunk Love.



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