April 12, 2009
Review - " Marley & Me " - (on DVD) By Roland Hansen
results are very funny, and when the two of them start to sense a distance after their second, and then third, child is born, it
feels real. Jennifer's decision to give up her career for her kids is one that she wants to make, but she has no idea how
tough it is really going to be. Her increasing weariness, as with John's confusion over a job position, from reporter to daily
columnist, he never planned, as with all of the arguments that arise in between, are treated with an organic honesty far
removed from most Hollywood scripts' strained crises and false portrayals of romantic relationships.
In his previous film “The Devil Wears Prada”, Frankel really got the best out of his cast, and this time is no different. I've
never been a big fan of Owen Wilson or Jennifer Aniston, but in “Marley & Me,” they both surprised me. I wouldn't call their
performances mind-blowing, but they just come across more natural this time than usual.
The supporting ensemble is peripheral in importance, but stays with the viewer. Alan Arkin (2008's "Get Smart") is a hoot as
Sun-Sentinel editor-in-chief Arnie Klein, able to bust a gut laughing without cracking a smile, and Eric Dane (TV's "Grey's
Anatomy") intriguingly brings an unspoken subtext to his reading of John's skirt-chasing best friend and coworker Sebastian
Tunney. In his brief scenes, Nathan Gamble is touching as the Grogans' eldest son, Patrick. Actorwise, though, the film
belongs to Owen Wilson and Jennifer Aniston, building upon and embracing their complicated but sincere relationship as
couple John and Jennifer. Wilson and Aniston, full of chemistry, are both highly adept at delivering comedic and dramatic
performances, and so it stands to reason that they would excel here as they get the chance to play both sides of the
When the setting relocates north during the third act and the first signs of Marley's aging becomes apparent—he pauses for
a few moments before making his way up the front porch steps—it is the start of a finale that audiences unfamiliar with the
book will not be anticipating. While the conclusion will not be given away in full, one can probably guess where a film is
headed that is all about the bittersweet passage of time and the lingering imprint our pets and family members have on us.
Usually, blatant manipulation and overly obvious ploys for sympathy are things that turn me off, but the characters in "Marley
& Me" had involved me so much by this point that it wholeheartedly worked its cathartic spell. Director David Frankel refuses
to shy away from the harder moments and let the audience off the hook. His candidness is appreciative, but will be too much
for impressionable young ones to handle. Full admission: by movie's end, so many tears had been uncontrollably shed that
my eyes were red. And I'm more of a cat person.
Luckily enough, “Marley & Me” boasts a
heartwarming message, offering dog friends young
and old exactly what they want to hear. "A dog
doesn't care if you're rich or poor. You give him your
heart and he'll give you his." These words, spoken
by John, are at the epicenter of what the
one-of-a-kind relationship is like between a canine
and his owner. As John, Jennifer and Marley are faced
with coming to terms with the inevitable, there is a
lovely, poignant moment shot at sunset where John
tells Marley to let him know when the time comes to
say good-bye, the picture builds to an impassioned
and deeply moving payoff. The film is not sad for
sad's sake, however; it's actually quite life-affirming,
leading the viewer to reassess how important and
valuable his or her own loved ones are. Every family
having a passion for dogs will enjoy this movie to the
fullest extent. “Marley & Me” is even entertaining
enough for those who couldn't care less about puppies.
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Marley & Me
Directed by: David Frankel
Starring: Owen Wilson, Jennifer Aniston, Eric Dane, Alan Arkin, Nathan Gamble,
Finley Jacobsen, Haley Bennett, Kathleen Turner,
Haley Hudson, Ann Dowd, Lucy Merriam.
Based on the book by John Grogan, the film introduces us to John (Owen
Wilson) and Jennifer (Jennifer Aniston), two enthusiastic newlyweds whose lives
take a drastic turn when they adopt a Labrador puppy they name Marley. Unlike
most dogs, however, Marley is a real pain in the butt, refusing to obey and
spending most of its time tearing everything apart. The treatment of this subject
matter is tough and realistic, but also commercially viable. Best of all, the
themes touched upon, about the unpredictability of career and family, and the
natural processes of living and dying, are always truthful and certainly
universal. You don't have to be a dog lover to be moved to tears by "Marley &
Me," you only need to be human.
Upon marrying, moving to warm and sunny West Palm Beach, Florida, and
procuring jobs at different newspaper publications, journalists John (Owen
Wilson) and Jennifer Grogan (Jennifer Aniston) take the next logical step:
adopting a puppy. Marley is an adorable yellow Lab, but his zestfulness
frequently translates to destruction and unruliness. When they take him to
obedience school, he gets kicked out during the first class.
When there's a storm, he's apt to go berserk and chew on everything in sight.
He does the latter anyway. As the years go by, the family grows, and priorities
change—John and Jennifer have three kids, and Jennifer ultimately chooses to
quit her columnist job in exchange for being a stay-at-home mom, Marley, older
and wiser himself, remains their one constant. John describes Marley in
narration as "the world's worst dog," but he says it with affection and love, he
wouldn't have it any other way.
The ads that have been running for "Marley & Me" are laughable in their
misrepresentation. For a motion picture about a cute dog opening on Christmas
Day, studio 20th Century Fox would like to hoodwink viewers into believing this
will be a lighthearted, fun-filled romp for the whole family to go see after they've
opened presents and eaten their holiday feast. Even the PG rating suggests
that this is kid-friendly entertainment. "Marley & Me" is a terrific film, one of the
most surprisingly affecting and resonant to come out during this awards
contending season, but it isn't for little children. Less about a dog's wacky antics
and more about how a pet can become a meaningful, and then fleeting, part of a
family's life, it will be adults and teens who will be more equipped to understand
and appreciate the story's messages.
Spanning a roughly fourteen-year period (1991-2005), "Marley & Me" chronicles
the evolution of an ordinary family unit while doing a subtle but fair job of
conveying a certain time and place. When John and Jennifer go away on
vacation and leave Marley with a quickly harried babysitter (Haley Hudson), the