Marley & Me Review

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Newlywed journalists John and Jenny Grogan (Wilson and Aniston) plan to have babies. To delay that day, John gives Jenny a puppy instead. Incorrigible Marley is the world’s worst dog, but his untamable spirit uplifts the Grogans at difficult moments.


You might stray into this picture assuming it’s a comedy because of the Owen Wilson/Jennifer Aniston pairing — particularly as their co-star is a large, awkward pooch. Then you could spend at least an hour wondering when it’s going to get funny.

It is only then the horrible realisation may dawn that this is supposed to be a heartwarming drama in which the dog teaches his people life wisdom. Because he is a destructive, free-spirited bad doggy, he demonstrates the virtues of living in the moment and a bounding, unquenchable joie de vivre his humans need to embrace.

In real life John Grogan is an American newspaper columnist whose late, lamented Labrador (named after Bob, who was singing on the car radio the day John brought the puppy home, aww) inspired his most popular musings. A collection of these became a bestseller. What it amounts to on screen is mostly the two-legged stars, and 22 dogs who played Marley between puppyhood and old age, spending two hours vying to out-cute each other. Wilson wins Best In Show, since his monologues to the four-legged blonds have more charm and chemistry than his dialogues with Aniston, unconvincing as a journalist, a frustrated housewife, a mother of three or the tolerant handmaiden of a slavering beast who chews up her stuff (although not, surprisingly, her children).

The naughty dog is the most believable thing. Given the credibility of the screenwriters, they and/or director David Frankel (The Devil Wears Prada) seem oddly uninterested in Grogan’s reportorial life, beyond unlikely exchanges with his crusty-comedic editor (Alan Arkin), who has to persuade him to become a columnist and double his salary. Or in his best friend-confidant (Eric Dane), merely the obligatory swinging-bachelor foreign correspondent whose glamorous, successful life is hollow because he didn’t wed, get a dog and reproduce. A lot of the commotion between Wilson and Aniston is about the dreams they had to let go through the ups and tearful/screeching downs of a marriage and having a family. Gee, do you think they’ll conclude it was all worth it? Marley’s the poor sod who has his balls cut off, so what have they got to bellyache about?

My Dog Skip for people in mid-life crises, it’s too talky and trouble-laden for tykes but will doubtless prove as critic-proof to dog-lovers and the stars’ fans as it did in the US.