Monday, 1 June 2009

Marley & Me

Lowdown: A couple's war of attrition with life is made worse through their dog.
I first heard about Marley & Me when I stumbled upon the book a few years ago. The cover talked about "life with the worst dog ever" (or something along these lines), my dog crazy mother in law's birthday was coming up, and the book was on special offer; she reported to have really liked the book. While Marley & Me was not the type of book I would waste my time on I was still curious enough to see what is was all about through the film. In retrospect, it was a case of curiosity killing the dog.
Marley & Me seems to be the autobiography of John Grogan (portrayed by Owen Wilson), given the film's main character happens to have the same name as the book's author. Wilson is married to Jeniffer Aniston, and in typical cliche male attitude he determines that in order to postpone the inevitable request to have a baby they should go for a dog - a Labrador called Marley. Marley turns out to be nothing but trouble, leaving nothing but a trail of destruction behind of being totally uncontrollable.
Then the inevitable happens and our couple starts bringing kids to the world. Between toggling their careers and their family life, their aspirations and the harsh restriction reality imposes, and that massive dog problem of theirs, Wilson and Aniston find life to be really hard. But they have each other, and everything will sort itself out eventually in this typical mass production grade American film. Because it's all about family, and in this conservative view even a pest of a dog is an asset.
I have had a few issues with Marley & Me which meant I didn't enjoy watching it. For a start, there are some contradictions thrown about: As the film starts, our couple moves from cold Chicago to warm Florida because of the weather; yet later on they go back to cold weather. It wouldn't have been a big deal if it wasn't for the fuss the film makes about these moves.
Second, the film actively avoids spelling the truth, that the dog behavior problem is due to the mishandling of our couple of heroes. Sure, this is pointed out to them at some point by their dog trainer of choice (see more below), but the point of there being a serious issue here - dog owners being completely irresponsible - is not well made. [Ignorant] People will watch the film and think there is nothing wrong with the way Marley is handled and that the heroes' problems were due to pure luck when this is clearly not the case.
Third, and most importantly, Marley & Me is a very boring film. I often wondered how would a film depicting real life feel like, craving for a good and authentic portrayal of something I can identify with as my own life. Marley & Me is pretty close, being that at its core it is not much more than the tale of a family with kids and the issues they confront, issues I'm facing on a daily basis; but it's all so superficial, so ordinary, so boring that you have no reason to like the characters (not even the occasional throwing about of yet another scene where the hero dog does irrepressible damage helps). It just doesn't work as a drama, even though the subject matter is not that bad, and it definitely doesn't work as a comedy; I didn't even smile once throughout the film. If anything, I wanted to get it over with so I can do something useful with my time like digging a hole in my garden or something.
Interesting scene: Our heroes take Marley for training lessons with Kathleen Turner. Let me tell you this: Turner looks slightly different to the way she did back in Body Heat.
Technical assessment: While benefiting from the Blu-ray's format superior resolution, colors are way out of place. The soundtrack is also way too ordinary.
Overall: Extremely boring and un-involving, 1.5 out of 5 stars.

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