Marley & Me DVD: Review By Brian Gallagher

It’s a surprisingly poignant film that truthfully explores the bond of man and dog, but it also takes a rather dull look at the American family as well and, while it’s authentic and identifiable… much of the time, it isn’t that interesting.
  • OVERALL
    2.5
    WORTHY
  • Feature
  • Picture
  • Sound
  • Extras
  • Replay Value
THE GOOD
It's not the wacky dog comedy I expected and the film has a lot of heart.
THE BAD
Not nearly enough of the dog and too much of this average American family that is kind of boring.
THE FEATURE
Marley & Me was marketed as this rather zany dog flick, with the lives of an average couple turned upside down when they decided to become pet owners. I was rather surprised at how non-zany the film was, but also how the film could be both very dramatic and emotional... and frankly kind of boring at the same time.

The film is based off the best-selling book by John Grogan (Owen Wilson), which starts off on his rather unusual wedding day where he ties the knot with the lovely Jenny (Jennifer Aniston). Unsure he's ready for kids quite yet, Grogan does the next best thing and gets his new wife a puppy instead, who they name Marley after they discover the dog responded to Bob Marley's music and the name itself. They thought it would give the young couple something to take care of, in lieu of a baby, and what they got was probably the worst dog in the entire world that happened to be the best fit for the couple. Grogan, a reporter with delusions of Woodward and Bernstein in his head, wanting the hard-hitting stories, gets stuck doing a column and, with Marley a new part of his life, starts chronicling the miscreant pooch's adventures around Miami Beach and, as their family grows, the dog becomes an indelible part of their lives, and stuff. The problem with the flick, though, is there really isn't a whole lot of meat to this tale, touching as it turns out to be, notwithstanding.

The film really feels like something that should've just stayed a book. While I haven't read it as of yet, from seeing this adaptation it sounds like quite a wonderful read, but at the same time, there just isn't enough conflict here to turn it into a film. Part of the film is an exploration of the bond that grows between dog owners and their beloved pets, and there is some pretty good stuff here, especially compounded with the relentless nature of Marley - a dog that seemingly never met anything that he couldn't chew or destroy. But a lot of this film is just the story of this couple doing normal couple stuff, having kids, career insecurities, etc. While it does feel very authentic, it's almost too authentic and these conflicts of Grogan never knowing what kind of journalist he wants to be (he's a great columnist but doesn't like doing it) and garden variety family spats just really don't have a place in the realm of movies. We go to movies to be entertained, not to see what we can see at home, which is pretty much the case here. While I get that anyone could and really should identify with this film, it just feels too average to me. I almost feel we don't get enough of Marley here, as it starts out with the dog being a big part of their lives and as the film progresses, we almost see less and less of him as they continue to have kids and it's focused on the maddening task of being a young parent and Marley gets a little lost in the mix here. It seems that part of the problem might be that Scott Frank (Minority Report) and Don Roos (The Opposite of Sex) are two of the screenwriters I would never even dream of as the writers of this. I don't believe either of them have ever done family (or more tame, at least) fare in their careers and perhaps a lot of things seeming out of place here are because they were a tad out of place in this sort of a film.

I will say, though, that the film is a lot more touching than I expected when it's all said and done, but I think it would've been more effective if they would've focused more on the dog and exactly what role he played in their lives. The authenticity of the film is enhanced even more by some wonderful performances from Owen Wilson and Jennifer Aniston, in some of the best work they've done in years. They play this couple to perfection, but even their performances can't totally eclipse how dull and random the film feels in many places. There is also a few nice supporting turns from Alan Arkin as Grogan's editor at the Miami newspaper and Eric Dane as Grogan's reporter buddy but there's a very very odd turn here from Kathleen Turner as Ms. Kornblut.

I will say that director David Frankel did get some wonderful performances out of the main cast and the dogs themselves, Woodsen as the puppy Marley, Jonah as just Marley and Clyde as adult Marley, were all quite wonderful, and my hat's off to the animal trainers, who get these pooches to perform some amazing feats, as well. The dogs are a lot of fun to watch and just adorable as hell to boot and Frankel's direction and his work with the animal trainers really gave us a very entertaining dog to watch for 115 minutes.

Marley & Me seems to be a film that is subtly saying that even the worst dog in the world is better than the average human. Sadly, they spend way too much on the humans and not nearly as much on the dogs. While it does give us some dandy performances from Owen Wilson and Jennifer Aniston and does a great job at tearing at those heartstrings, there just isn't enough conflict, or interesting conflict, rather.
THE EXTRAS
We get a nice selection of features here which begin with some Deleted Scenes. We get 19 total deleted scenes here and like most deleted scenes, they are rather worthy of deletion. Some of these are just extended scenes, like they turned a brief bit in the movie where John interviews Gloria Estefan into a several-minute, very awkward thing, and the first "I'm pregnant" part. There's actually a really good one here though, called Hero Marley, that was a great Marley moment where he actually helps stop some crime, and it would've helped what I was talking about with Marley kind of being phased out of the story. But out of the 19 we get here there are only maybe that one and another one are two that are decent.

Finding Marley is next and we hear about all the different dogs they used in the film, 22 total between all the different dogs and the ages Marley goes through. We also hear from the animal trainers and we see some of the tricks of the trade that the trainers . We also hear about some of the things that the trainers brought to the story that weren't originally in the script and it's a nice little eight-minute bit about all the pooches.

Breaking the Golden Rule is next and it's your pretty standard featurette with all the main players - Owen Wilson, Jennifer Aniston, director David Frankel and even Kathleen Turner and the real-life John Grogan talking about this story and how much they loved working on everything and so on. It's another eight-minute featurette that's decent but goes by this featurette playbook that everyone uses.

On Set with Marley: Dog of All Trades and it's a cutesy little spoof video where Marley is apparently wanting to make his own movies. It's pretty lame but it's only two and a half minutes long or so. Whatever.

Animal Adoption and it's a little public service announcement for adopting pets, giving some nice info on animal shelters and debunking some of the myths that are associated with these shelters. They also give some nice tips for potential pet owners of what to expect and look out for. It's a nice five-minute feature put together by the website AdoptAPet.com, which you should probably check out if you would like a dog or any other animal of your own.

Next up is Purina Dog Chow Marley & Me Video Contest Finalists and these are videos sent in by regular dog owners featuring their dog's crazy behavior. These videos were turned into commercials, I assume, for Purina Dog Chow, and there's even another Marley on here. Some of these are pretty dang funny, like a dog who keeps bouncing a ballon with his mouth, trying to pop it and another trying to pop one of those workout ball things. There are 12 total here and they're all worth a look.

Purina Dog Chow Video Hall of Fame is next and these five are just like the last 12, but these are the cream of the crop and they're so damn funny I had to watch them again. There's Boris, who attacks a shadow puppet on a wall, Lilly who can float on her back in a pool, Nemo, probably the most amazing one, who can not only swim but even fetch something from the bottom of a pool and bring it back. Pete and Repete are an amazing pair of dogs who can actually play tetherball with each other and finally Spike, who flips out and darts on top of the dashboard of a car when the windshield wipers are turned on. Hilarious, but I hope they don't live in Seattle... These are only 30-second spots again, but absolutely hilarious.

Gag Reel is next and a lot of this aren't really gags, but just sillyness, but some of it is kind of funny, especially with the dogs. Nothing that's really side-splitting stuff here, but it's a nice five and a half minute reel.

The last thing we get here, besides the Trailers, is When Not to Pee, and it's a weird two-minute bit about one little part in the movie that there was a real Marley moment on the set, where one of the dogs who played Marley actually started peeing in the house. We get director David Frankel's commentary as well, and it's a nice little way to end out these features with this two and a half minute spot.
THE VIDEO
The disc is presented in the widescreen format, in the 2.35:1 aspect ratio. I don't know why all these non-serious drama flicks are filming in such a wide aspect ratio lately, but whatever.
THE AUDIO
The Sound is handled through the Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound format.
THE PACKAGE
I just got a screener disc, but it looks like the front cover is in all red with just a title card and a shot of the adorable pooch on the front. Not sure what's on the back though.
THE FINAL WORD
Much like the Grogans themselves when they first got Marley, you don't really get what you might have expected in Marley & Me. It's a surprisingly poignant film that truthfully explores the bond of man and dog, but it also takes a rather dull look at the American family and, while it's authentic and identifiable... much of the time, it isn't that interesting.

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Comments (2)

  1. Forrestgump1

    The One Thing i don't get is how this walked away with a PG rating-LOLZ!!!!!

    5 years agoby @forrestgump1Flag

  2. 313td

    Nice review.

    5 years agoby @313tdFlag