Marley & Me (2008) starring Owen Wilson, Jennifer Aniston, Eric Dane, Alan Arkin, Kathleen Turner, Nathan Gamble, Finley Jacobsen directed by David Frankel Movie Review

Marley & Me (2008)   3/53/53/53/53/5

Owen Wilson as John Grogan in Marley & Me (2008)

Man's best friend is Marley

I'd always planned to read John Grogan's book "Marley & Me" and like most things I plan to read, I never got round to it. Thankfully a decision was made to adapt Grogan's popular book about his dog Marley into a movie and I'm glad they did. But there is one problem with "Marley & Me", well actually it's not a problem per say with the movie but in the way it has been advertised. Watching a trailer for the movie it would be easy to get the impression that "Marley & Me" was a cutesy, romantic comedy which is bolstered by having an adorable yet rambunctious canine in it, which it certainly isn't. "Marley & Me" is more about how life changes for John & Jenny Grogan as their lives together develop and how Marley becomes a significant part of the family.

Having tied the knot John and Jenny Grogan (Owen Wilson & Jennifer Aniston) arrive in Florida where knowing that at some point children will be on the cards they decide to get a puppy who they name Marley. And of course all is well to start with as Marley is cute but then he gets bigger and of course causes chaos with his endless energy and lack of discipline. Over time John and Marley become inseperable as he becomes the muse for his newspaper column but as John, Jenny and the family they eventually have come to realise a dog is more than a pet, he is part of the family.

Jennifer Aniston as Jennifer Grogan in Marley & Me (2008)

In many ways "Marley & Me" is a movie of two halves with the first half covering the newly married Grogan's decision to get a puppy as the next logical step in their relationship before starting a family. Of course this provides plenty of opportunity for predictable canine chaos as the puppy takes control of their lives and demolishes pretty much everything in sight. Much of this chaos is what you often see from dog movies but in "Marley & Me" there is a slightly better grasp on reality which stops this feeling like one of the "Beethoven" movies. Like in the scene when Marley tries to climb out of the Grogan's moving car only for John to grab it from behind so that only his front paws are running alongside their car, it just pulls back from being totally ridiculous.

The second half of "Marley & Me" is much different and sees the emphasis of the movie shift away from the chaos that having a dog brings and focuses on the stresses and strains of married life. This may sound a bit heavy and in some hands this could have turned into a seriously down beat movie but there is still just the right amount of light heartedness to make it watch able but still semi realistic. Through out this second half you get a better sense of the bond between John and Marley which is especially touching as the movie progresses towards a fitting climax.

What for me was surprising was the chemistry between Owen Wilson as John Grogan and Jennifer Aniston as his wife Jenny. Star names don't always make for a star movie but in the case of "Marley & Me" they do and together Wilson & Aniston put in good performances delivering both comedy and drama in equal measure. By the end of the movie you feel so attached to the couple, as well as Marley, after watching them go through so many ups and downs that it is hard not too feel like one of the family.

Despite "Marley & Me" pretty much belonging to Wilson and Aniston plus the range of adorable dogs that play Marley, the supporting cast add to the overall journey of the movie. Most notably of these is Alan Arkin as the straight faced editor Arnie Klein who laughs without raising a smile and also Eric Dane who plays John's womanizing friend. These supporting characters don't just provide padding but provide the source for different subplots which spring up once in a while.

One thing which stands out for me is that despite being awarded a PG certificate "Marley & Me" is not really a family movie. It is essentially a drama about life and so once you get past all the early cuteness and laughs much of the movie will be at a level young children may find boring. It is not just the level of the movie because without giving too much away there are naturally emotional scenes in the movie which may be tough for children and in truth some grown ups as well.

What this all boils down to is that "Marley & Me" is a very good movie and I am sure it captures some of the emotion and fun in John Grogan's book. It does have a few issues most notably from the stupid way it has been marketed but other wise it is entertaining and well worth a watch.

Tags: Dog Movies