Review of Marley & Me


Movie Review: "Marley & Me"

-- Rating: PG-13
Length: 115 minutes
Release Date: December 25, 2008
Directed by: David Frankel
Genre: Drama

Actors often say they will never work with pets or children, but "Marley & Me" proves that films starring children and animals are among the best films. Director David Frankel previously worked on television shows but had his first experience on the big screen with the 2006 release "The Devil Wears Prada." The stylistic edge he gave to that film is also evident in this heartbreaking and touching story.

John Grogan achieved success as a writer by penning a novel that detailed the life he led with his Labrador retriever. "Marley & Me" details most of the same touching moments that Grogan wrote about, including the struggles that his family faced with their unruly pet. Anyone who has ever had a dog is sure to find something to relate to in this amazing story.

The film introduces the audience to John Grogan (Owen Wilson, "Night at the Museum") and his wife Jenny (Jennifer Aniston, "Wanderlust"). The two both work as journalists, and they decide to leave their home in Michigan behind for the sunny life in Florida. Not long after moving, John decides to bring home a yellow Lab. After much thought, he names the dog Marley because of his love for Bob Marley's music.

The film then jumps years into the future. The couple now has a nice house in Pennsylvania and three kids who love Marley as much as they do. John gains success in the newspaper world, penning a column about the mischief that Marley brings into his life. While the film might seem a little too cutesy for some, it offers some great laughs and has an ending that will tug at the heartstrings of any viewer.

Wilson is at his absolute best here, especially in the scenes toward the end of the film. From the moment that the tears leak down his face, viewers will find their own eyes welling up. While Wilson and Aniston take the lead roles, the secondary characters add humor and depth to the film.

Sebastian (Eric Dane, "Valentine's Day") is a smooth bachelor who works on the newspaper with John, and Dane adds a fun touch by hamming up the character. Arnie (Alan Arkin, "Little Miss Sunshine"), John's gruff editor, pops up several times in the film. Any scene with Arkin will have viewers paying close attention to the film.

While the author made his life an open book in his tale, the director shies away from some of the most significant moments. Jenny has three children close together, and she struggles quite a bit after the birth of their last child. The film version of "Marley & Me" broaches the idea of postpartum depression to explain her mood and actions, but the film quickly drops that storyline, making Jenny once again happy and positive.

John's character comes across as a bit of a jerk at times. When his wife has problems coping with life at home, he chooses to ignore these issues. In one particular scene of the film, he leaves in the middle of a fight instead of trying to help his wife. Some of the scenes involving John and Sebastian are equally rough. The film carefully reminds viewers that John is the main character, even in scenes where Sebastian comes across as the better man. The book showed the two characters as potential rivals, but the film focuses on showing the viewers that Sebastian leads the sad life of a bachelor while John has a happy family at home.

The main focus of the film is on the character of Marley. Throughout the film, the main characters use the dog's actions to explain the life lessons they learn. When Marley rips apart the house, the family learns how to deal with frustration. Unfortunately, the film sometimes ignores what could be the best scenes. For example, Kathleen Turner ("Body Heat") turns up in a small role as a trainer hired to work with Marley. When the dog continues doing whatever he wants, she simply walks away. That moment was just itching for a funny or touching scene between Turner and Marley.

While it does have some downsides, "Marley & Me" is a strong film suitable for the whole family. Marley teaches his family the importance of love and trust, and viewers will walk away feeling touched by the film. The bond between human and pet comes across clearly, reminding some viewers of the relationships that they shared with pets. Though the film has a sad ending, the rest of "Marley & Me" will have audiences smiling.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars