Marley and Me

Movie Review by Neil Sadler

Starring: Owen Wilson, Jennifer Aniston, Eric Dane, Kathleen Turner, Alan Arkin
Director: David Frankel

MARLEY AND ME starts off as a film about ticking boxes. Jennifer Aniston’s character has a list of things she wants to accomplish and ticks them off as she achieves her goals. I’m sure the irony is not lost on the filmmakers.

This simple story of reporters John and Jenny Grogan (Owen Wilson and Jennifer Aniston) as they marry and experience the highs and lows of married life played out against the life of Marley – “the worlds worst dog.” It is Marley that is the key to John’s writing career and it is Marley too that is the doggy spittle glue that binds this fragile story together.

There isn’t much of a story other than this rather episodic tale that meanders from obedience school through miscarriage to the multiple births and happy suburban life. It plays up how episodic it is in one sequence where John Grogan recounts a couple of years of his life as a list of events. It is a rare moment of playing against formula. Unlike David Frankel previous film, THE DEVIL WEARS PRADA, there is no real battle of wills here.

Aniston and Wilson do make an adorable couple and have a great chemistry together unsurprisingly. Aniston particularly oozes charm in what could be a minor role. The films aims to be something more than another doggy tale such as BEETHOVEN (add number of choice here) and this is somewhat achieved by the strong turns of the major actors. Even minor characters such as the always excellent Alan Arkin and a bizarre turn from Kathleen Turner as a dog obedience coach help to lift the film above its “ani-flick” roots.

However when W.C. Field said never to work with children or animals, I suspect it was less to do with the disruption they cause and more to do with their habit of upstaging everyone else in a film. MARLEY AND ME may try to be about a family and the pressures of family and married life but the moments you will remember are all to do with the dog.

Most of the film’s laughs and ultimately tears are centred around this character of a destructive dog. Whether eating, escaping or humping Marley’s presence adds a warm and fluffy heart to what could otherwise have been a rather dull affair.

Ultimately this is a film that ticks boxes and it won’t win awards for originality but it achieves what it sets out to do. It will make you laugh and maybe cry but it won’t leave with many lasting memories once you leave the cinema.

4 out of 6 stars

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