Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Archive: 'Marley & Me'

Movie Review
Marley & Me (2008)

This is the story of the world's worst dog that turns out to be the best addition to a family. The simple "Marley & Me" is adapted from the 2005 bestseller written by John Grogan. His book, and therefore this movie, tells about the period of his life when he settles into a new career path, finds a wonderful woman, starts a family with her, all the while taking care of a nuisance of a dog. The dog was John's first gift to his wife, Jennifer, and they called him the "clearance puppy" before naming him Marley. This lively Labrador is the central focus of the movie, a movie that shares the simple lesson that comes along with the human-canine connection.

This movie isn't just for dog lovers either, except one would probably have to at least be an animal lover. This movie won't turn anybody into an animal lover because, well, how could it? We're dealing with a most destructive dog that not only chews on furniture and other household items but literally eats them. You definitely know when Marley's passed through a room. John and Jennifer become irritated with him, yes, but they endure it and love him. He's a part of their family and honestly represents the messiness we all come across in life. As directed by David Frankel ("The Devil Wears Prada"), a seemingly vanilla premise about life with a dog becomes something surprisingly more. Here's a dog that joins a family at the cusp of its beginning and sees it through many, many moments.

After moving from Michigan to southern Florida, John takes a job at a newspaper and, while thinking he wants to be a reporter, switches to become a columnist from the pressure of a dryly humorous editor, played fittingly by Alan Arkin. Jennifer is a writer, too, but eventually gives up her job for her children. All three of them. She gets fed up with staying home, she gets fed up with the dog, and she occasionally snaps at her husband. Jennifer Aniston does a fine job of portraying a wife who knowingly sacrifices a part of herself while also knowing she couldn't have it any other way. Owen Wilson as John meanders along trying his very best to balance love, work, and children. His most effective moment comes near the end during a tender scene with Marley. And as for Marley, whatever dogs were retrieved to play such a pet (apparently 22 dogs were used total), kudos to that because it's hard to ignore the fact that it can be considered a performance on its own.

"Marley & Me" plays out exactly as it should. There's a nice scene that plays like a series of home video footage and captures the essence of how the Grogan family functions. The Grogans live their life plain and simple to the best of their ability, and there just happens to be an obnoxiously meddling pooch between it all. The human relationships formed on-screen are realistic and believable, but what is best of all is the human-animal relationship presented, which is the core and purpose of the movie. And while the movie holds a PG-rating, it really can't be considered for just children with such an adult perspective on life. It's a comfortable piece of entertainment that in the end turns unnecessarily manipulative in its style. That's to be understood, however, when you take a look at the heartstrings being so strongly tugged at.

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