"Marley and Me" has much to offer its audience. The middle act is a bit muddy, but the emotional impact of the final act and goofiness of the first act makes up for it.
Marley and Me (2008, Blu-ray)
Directors: David Frankel
Writers: Scott Frank (screenplay) and Don Roos (screenplay) John Grogan (book)
Features: * Deleted Scenes with Optional Commentary (26 minutes) * Finding Marley Featurette (8 minutes) * Breaking the Golden Rule Featurette (8 minutes) * On the Set with Marley Featurette (3 minutes) * Animal Adoption PSA (5 minutes) * Gag Reel (6 minutes) * When Not to Pee Outtake (2 minutes) * BD Exclusive: Dog Training Trivia Track * BD Exclusive: DVD Copy * BD Exclusive: Digital Copy * Trailers
Owen Wilson ... John Grogan
Jennifer Aniston ... Jennifer Grogan
Eric Dane ... Sebastian
Kathleen Turner ... Ms. Kornblut
Alan Arkin ... Arnie Klein
Caution: Contains Spoilers
As much as I like dogs, I wouldnít call myself a dog lover. Iím a cat lover. I have been since my first encounters with my brother-in-lawís cat, Monster. He was cute, playful and lovable, but also calm and even-tempered, resting on your lap when he got tired. Some dogs provide that same comfort, but most seem to demand a lot more. I guess it all boils down to personality though. For me, cats do just fine.
But that didnít detract from my affection for "Marley and Me." The film is remarkably uneven, but it also tugs and pulls at your heartstrings and your funny bone making up for the many faults.
Marley is a golden Labrador purchased by reporter/columnist John Grogan (Owen Wilson) so that his wife Jennifer (Jennifer Aniston) wonít think about having a kid in the immediate future (it doesnít work). But the puppy they pick proves to be almost harder to handle than a kid. Marley is unruly, untrainable and determined. Heís a bad dog to his very core, chewing, eating, pooping and peeing on any and everything in sight. But heís also a lovable pup, full of joy and happiness, and even during darker times in the Grogan household, Marley brightens up the day.
Oddly billed as a kidís film, "Marley and Me" is anything but. This is actually the second Aniston film thatís been inaccurately billed to the wrong audience (the first being the drama, "The Break-Up," which was billed as a laugh-riot comedy). And thatís part of the problem here. It seems as though the episodic nature of the book got in the way of telling a decent story on film -- a story without pacing issues and a more cohesive narrative crux. Perhaps this could have been a kidís film. Or perhaps this should have been an adult drama. Here, itís kind of both.
For the first act, the film does play like a quirky kid-friendly comedy, with Aniston and Wilson chasing after Marley during any given number of his shenanigans. But the film careens into darker territory as John and Jennifer start having marital and career struggles. Aside from making about three or four dumb career moves (John moves from a paper in sunny Florida to one in murky Philly, one that just went bankrupt in February), John and Jennifer argue over time-spent with their children, with each other and, of course, where Marley fits in with their hefty adult lives.
Itís a muddy middle act that probably didnít read as dark in John Groganís popular memoir of which this film is based. And even classy performers like Owen Wilson and Jennifer Aniston canít really elevate the material above the drab context.
At least things get back on track for the filmís heartfelt, emotionally saddening final act, where a 15-year-old Marley begins to show serious signs of aging. The material that once felt goofy and laugh-out-loud transcends into something else, but at least itís emotionally rewarding as death and mourning are part of every pet ownerís evolution with their animal.
Parents should exhibit some caution before showing the film to their kids. Itís adorable in spots, but perhaps a bit too honest in others, particularly for wee little ones. Pet owners, particularly ones whoíve recently lost a pet might find the material a little too close to home as well, but it could act as a powerful part of the grieving process.
"Marley and Me" has much to offer its audience. The middle act is a bit muddy, with episodic pacing and underdeveloped characters, but the emotional impact of the final act and goofiness of the first act makes up for it. Itís an often moving, funny film about the impression our pets can leave on our lives, both during the good times and the bad. And thereís no harm in that.
Film Report Card:
Entertainment Value: B+
Film Value: B-
"Marley & Me" is presented in 2.35:1 widescreen using the AVC MPEG-4 codec on a dual-layered BD50 disc.
Audio choices are English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, Spanish, French and Portuguese Dolby Digital 5.1 with Spanish, Korean, Cantonese, Mandarin and Portuguese subtitles and English captions for the hearing impaired.
ē Deleted Scenes with Optional Commentary (26 minutes)
ē Finding Marley Featurette (8 minutes)
ē Breaking the Golden Rule Featurette (8 minutes)
ē On the Set with Marley Featurette (3 minutes)
ē Animal Adoption PSA (5 minutes)
ē Gag Reel (6 minutes)
ē When Not to Pee Outtake (2 minutes)
ē BD Exclusive: Dog Training Trivia Track
ē BD Exclusive: DVD Copy
ē BD Exclusive: Digital Copy
The film is presented in a blue "Elite" case featuring the film's original artwork.
"Marley & Me" might have been advertised for the kids, but it's ultimately an adult-orientated drama that works because of two fine leads and decent script. The Blu-ray disc is pretty solid, though the features are a tad lightweight. The A/V presentation is pretty good considering the material, though it could be a little better. Dog lovers should defiantly give this disc a spin.
Blu-ray Report Card:
HD Content: B
Recommendation: Worth renting, but exhibit caution with the kids.
On Blu-ray and DVD: March 31st, 2009.
To buy the film on Blu-ray, click the image below:
If you'd like to check out the book, click on the image below:
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----R. L. Shaffer