Owen Wilson + Jennifer Aniston + cute dog = blockbuster. Marley & Me comes to DVD on March 31, allowing people like me who passed on the film during its theatrical run to take a peek at the surprisingly heartwarming dog film.
Marley & Me is not at all what I expected. Based on the previews, I figured the movie would be a throw-away film with some funny dog antics and not much else; instead, the picture is a surprisingly mature and confident story that entertains and captivates for an hour and a half.
Wilson and Aniston star as two married reporters who one day decide to get a puppy. The puppy, a lab, looks cute enough - until he reveals that he is the spawn of the Devil and Saddam Hussein incarnate. Marley, while loveable, is un-trainable, and will pull, tug, run, chew and eat his way to whatever he wants, which is usually pulling, tugging, running, chewing and eating. As time goes on, Marley becomes more unmanageable, but also a crucial part of the family. As the family grows (read: children), Marley both increases tensions and becomes a bond that brings them closer together.
Marley & Me is not your stupid Snow Dogs kind of movie; it's well-written, well-directed and entertaining. While kids should enjoy the dog antics, the movie is really less a dog movie than it is a lighthearted drama with some laughs and plenty of dog moments. Based on a book by John Grogan (who Wilson plays in the movie), the story spans at least a decade and shows the ups and downs of his relationship with his wife. It's PG-rated, but the movie deals with careers, spousal fighting, sex, skinny dipping and death. It's never inappropriate, but parents expecting a harmless dog film may want to watch this film in advance to make sure it is OK for their kids - and whether their kids will even like it. Marley & Me is not the laugh-along dog-fest one would expect.
Marley & Me works in spite of this, mainly thanks to the strong screenplay and the chemistry Wilson and Aniston have together. Wilson is both himself - the charming, goofy, sarcastic guy we expect - and a believable husband and father; Aniston shows great range in a film that one wouldn't expect to offer such an opportunity.
Marley & Me is not for everyone, especially little children who aren't to be distracted by more mature subjects such as life. But it's a cute little flick that clicks on multiple cylinders, providing an enjoyable and believable tale of man, family and dog.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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