Marley & Me

Marley & Me

***

Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

Can't think of an idea for a newspaper column? Why not just write about your life? It's like anybody else's, but funnier (or so we're told). Can't think of an idea for a book? Why not just paste some of your old columns together? Run out of ideas for making movies? Gee, let's see...

An adaptation of the bestselling book by John Grogan, Marley & Me is the true story of a man who buys a badly behaved dog and - well, that's about it, really. Hilarity ensues in a fairly predictable way.

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He has a wife who also loves the dog but sometimes struggles to cope with it. She wants children, so they have three, though he worries that in the process he's losing his freedom (it takes him a long time to realise that she's losing hers). They live in the sort of glamorous homes most journalists can only dream of and their only real career worries seem to revolve around which of the great jobs thrown at their feet they ought to choose from. They take no real responsibility whatsoever for the impact of their carefree lives on those around them, but this is laughed away in the spirit of being young. And that's fair enough really, because in times like these Marley & Me is exactly what many cinemagoers want - it's pure escapism.

It shouldn't be hard to tell a realistic story about a man and his dog, but Marley & Me doesn't try, despite its true story credentials. In fact, it is when it strays furthest from realism that it is most fun. There's plenty to be said for sitting back in the cinema for two hours and dreaming of an easy life under the Florida sun.

Marley the dog has some spectacularly silly adventures which will bring a smile to almost anyone, and kids will love him, though as the film's ostensible subject he doesn't really get enough screen time. He's played by a succession of dogs (Woodson, Jonah and Clyde) none of whom really has much personality, though they don't have to try hard to compete with the fuzzily bland Owen Wilson. As his wife, Jennifer Aniston is dependable as always, putting them all to shame with a sophisticated performance that tips the film somewhat off balance in places, whilst Alan Arkin and Kathleen Turner provide memorable support.

The strength of this story is its simplicity, yet, at a full two hours, that's also its weakness. It simply cannot grip the viewer all the way through, and it suffers as Marley gets older and becomes gradually less adventurous. Dog-lovers will doubtless find a lot of joy in this film, but it's unlikely that many people will remember much about it in two years' time.

Reviewed on: 26 Feb 2009
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Marley & Me packshot
A family struggle to live with the world's worst dog, who is loveable but just won't behave.
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Director: David Frankel

Writer: Scott Frank and Don Roos, based on the book by John Grogan.

Starring: Jennifer Aniston, Owen Wilson, Kathleen Turner, Eric Dane, Alan Arkin, Nathan Gamble, Haley Bennett, Finley Jacobsen, Bryce Robinson, Benjamin Hyland

Year: 2008

Runtime: 115 minutes

BBFC: PG - Parental Guidance

Country: US

Festivals:

Glasgow 2009

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Hotel For Dogs