Some people might come away from this film a little disappointed. Disappointed because they, if they have not read the best-selling novel by John Grogan which the film is based upon, might have thought that this was going to another romantic comedy. It is not. There is actually very little romance or comedy in this film. “Marley & Me” is a slice of life film about a young couple and the things they have to go through during the course of their marriage. We get to see the circle of life through the relationship between John Grogan (Owen Wilson – Wedding Crashers, Drillbit Taylor) and his yellow Labrador, Marley (portrayed by 22 different yellow Labs of various ages).
John and Jennifer Grogan (Jennifer Aniston – The Break Up, She’s the One) have just gotten married and moved to West Palm Beach, Florida to start up their careers as journalists. Jennifer has a list of things she wants to accomplish in her life and next up is becoming a mother. John is not sure that he is ready to become a father, so he listens to the advice of his firmly single best friend, Sebastian (Eric Dane – from television’s Grey’s Anatomy), who tells him to buy Jennifer a puppy to distract her from wanting a child.
The Grogans adopt a cute yellow Labrador and name him Marley. In short order this tiny puppy becomes 100 pounds of terror. Marley is eating a sofa, kicked out of obedience class, drinks toilet water, and always chases the UPS guy. Throughout his 13 years with his beloved family, Marley, the world’s worst dog, sees them through a move to Philadelphia, three children, job changes, and the stresses of a growing family.
Most of us have owned a dog similar to Marley. Yet despite all the damage and disasters the dog has put us through we still love them and could not imagine our lives without them. The parts with Marley are most definitely the strongest in the film. Unfortunately it’s the parts inbetween that are the problem. They are boring. Most of them playing like a poor TV movie. You sit there anxious for more dog scenes. Even the chemistry between the dog and his human co-stars is better than that between the two humans. Despite the blahness of the story, what works about this film is that it is a story that all couples/families can relate to. We have all been through the stresses of family life.
What really surprised me in a pleasant way was Owen Wilson’s portrayal of John Grogan. We have been watching Owen portray silly, one-dimensional characters one after another. With this one he plays a man who has to go through many different emotions during the course of his life. He handles it all very maturely and shows more range than I thought he possessed. Surprisingly this is quite the opposite of Jennifer Aniston’s performance. We have seen her portray the good looking girl next door many times, but this time it just doesn’t work. Her performance is stilted and phoney. Plenty about this film left me thinking that it had gone to the dogs.