VOD film review: Marley & Me
James R | On 27, Jan 2018
Director: David Frankel
Cast: Owen Wilson, Jennifer Aniston
“Leg-humping is a virus,” warns a frizzy follicled dog trainer with all the solemnity she can muster. Owen Wilson flashes a laid-back smile. “He normally only does it to poodles.” This is Marley and Me, a dog flick that’s low on laughs and high on sugar. Not the good kind of sweet stuff – this is the cloggy, saccharine stuff that kills.
Marley is one of those dogs. Not just a labrador, but a naughty one. The “world’s worst dog”, if you believe the movie’s marketing or his owners, John (Wilson) and Jennifer (Aniston) Grogan. If Marley were to, say, viciously attack someone and ferociously gnaw upon their exo-skeleton, he would qualify for that description. Or, if he assembled a giant laser device upon a local landmark, threatening to up-end municipal peace without his extra portion of kibble, you’d be tempted to apply such a moniker. Marley doesn’t do either.
What does Marley do that’s so disastrously awful? Well, he knocks over a few tables and dislikes noisy weather. Aww, poor misunderstood Marley. But wait! It turns out that John and Jenny didn’t really mean it. They were just tired and stressed. They love Marley. In fact, he’s probably the best dog in whole wide world. Aww, good old Marley. If you started to well up two sentences ago, you’ve no hope at all with this unashamedly tear-jerking weepie. Watch this with a vat of tissues to hand. And some insulin.
Holding a household together with his antics, Marley is the foundation of the Grogan family. John, a journalist-turned-columnist, struggles to find things to wax lyrical about. Then the solution wags its tail in his face: Marley. Success soon comes running to John, whose everyday anecdotes entertain the masses (and his crusty editor, Alan Arkin). Marley and Me is one of those life-affirming dog films, which shows you how man’s best friend can lead said man through his wayward life and out the other side, all the better for his canine companion. (Jen is also a journalist, but she sacrifices her career for babies and dog-sitting.) It’s not a new story by far, but John Grogan’s memoirs sold well, so it’s no wonder they adapted them into a film.
Wilson and Aniston make for a watchable couple and credit to Clyde and Jonah, the two dogs who make Marley a likeable mutt. But while it’s meant to ring true, the bells are repeatedly drowned out by the schmaltzy soundtrack and heavy-handed use of home videos. Marley & Me spoons it all on with a ladle, to the point that by the predictable ending, any genuine emotion has long gone walkies.