Marley & Me
Marley & Me is based on American journalist John Grogan’s best-selling memoir about his young family and their Labrador — ‘the world’s worst dog’ — and it all sounds horribly cloying and lame, I know, but don’t rush to judge unless you simply can’t help yourself, in which case do and you won’t regret it. This is cloying and lame and I say this as a dog lover who loves all dogs aside from the local, fat-bollocked Staffie who always tries to eat my dog (‘Tyson,’ his owner always calls out, ‘be nice…’).
It stars Owen Wilson as John and Jennifer Aniston as his wife Jenny. At the outset, John and Jenny, both journalists, live in Michigan but quickly move to Florida and then Pennsylvania via more and more beautiful homes, the creeps. They are a golden couple with golden hair who never age and are always shot in nice, golden colours. What is this? Cinéma non-vérité? As for Wilson and Aniston, they are fine so long as you don’t mind Wilson’s leisurely drawl of a voice, which I find I rather do — he always sounds as if his batteries are running out; quick, someone change Mr Wilson’s batteries! — or the fact that Ms Aniston finds it quite hard to act. However, let us not be too unkind here. After all, acting is hard. (You try it.)
Anyway, they think they want a family and decide to prepare for parenthood by first acquiring a puppy, which is good because, this way, when they do have a child they will at least be prepared for it to drink out of the toilet and bark, bark, bark at that squirrel up the tree. So they get their puppy — their golden puppy — and this puppy is Marley, and I do love Marley just as I love all dogs apart from that Staff. (‘He only wants to play!’ that owner will shout out, as Tyson bolts past carrying the severed limb of a toddler between his jaws.)
Marley grows, though, and before the Grogans know it he’s a 100lb steamroller who is expelled from obedience school, chews everything, eats the sofa and humps whatever leg happens to be going. I’m not sure this makes him ‘the world’s worst dog’.If he’d put a bomb on a plane then, yes, but this is just bad behaviour of the kind we are meant to find loveable, and do, although come on. If John and Jenny had had the wit to persist with the training then Marley might have at least been allowed off-lead sometimes. As golden a couple as they are, I rather think Marley deserved more. And I didn’t even feel they liked him that much, although it could have just been the acting. (It’s not as easy as you think. You try it.)
This is directed by David Frankel, who also directed The Devil Wears Prada, and this film suffers from exactly what that film suffered from: not knowing whose film it is. Prada was Meryl Streep’s film and every time the film forgot that it flatlined. This is Marley’s film and every time the film forgets this, which it often does, it flatlines too. Marley increasingly becomes a backdrop to the ups and downs in the Grogans’ family life, and they are not even interesting ups and downs. Their problems are as banal, bland and dull and clichéed as they are.
OK, I admit I cried a small bucket at the end — the shamelessly milked, outrageously drawn-out end — but at least I hated myself for it. This is bland and obsequious tripe or, as my own dog would say, ‘Woof!’ I love dogs and all that, but I’ve yet to hear one say anything sensible about film.