Short version: If your idea of a PG family movie includes sexual references, an annoying dog and bad language, by all means go see Marley & Me.

Screen Rant reviews Marley & Me

Let’s just get right to it, shall we? I don’t know… maybe I’m getting grumpy in my old age, but I just didn’t see the appeal of Marley & Me. I went into the theater wanting to like this movie, I really did. While I’m a huge sci-fi and superhero movie fan, I’m always happy to see a movie out there that parents can bring their kids to – so it bugs me when I can’t give that sort of film an endorsement.

Let me say that while I realize this film is based on a book, I know nothing about the source material other than it’s an autobiographical book by John Grogan about a dog he really owned.

Marley & Me stars Owen Wilson and Jennifer Aniston as young married couple John and Jennifer Grogan. She has her entire life planned out, complete with a checklist of things to accomplish… BIG things, like “get married,” “buy a house,” etc. You get the picture.

John is happy to abide by her wishes since from his point of view he “married up,” snagging a babe way beyond who he thought he’d end up with – until he starts thinking about the next checklist item: children. His single-for-life best friend Sebastian (Eric Dane) tells John he needs to give Jennifer a dog. It will feed her maternal instincts for a while and delay her feeling the need for a child.

John has just been hired at a Florida newspaper as a fledgling reporter, wanting to work his way up and Jennifer also has a job as a journalist. He wants to make his mark and is not eager to start a family at this point.

So John surprises Jennifer by taking her to a dog breeder and they end up picking the runt of the litter. Jennifer is a writer and is on assignment while John picks up the adorable little fella. It turns out that the little guy is extremely insecure when left alone and he ends up destroying the contents of the garage.

This is just the beginning – the dog (named after Bob Marley) is incorrigible, and his owners are not up to the job of disciplining him. Eventually Jennifer gets pregnant, and next thing you know she and John are parents of more than one child. Their relationship starts to strain and the dog is not helping by constantly destroying things in the house and barking, keeping the baby from sleeping.

Eventually John is corralled into becoming a columnist for the newspaper where he works (he wants to be an investigative reporter) and he ends up writing quite a bit about his misadventures with Marley. John and Jennifer come to an understanding eventually and life changes for them in a good way.

This all sounds just peachy-keen, so what’s my problem with the film? Beyond the cute little face when it was a puppy, I never liked the stupid dog.

Now I’m a dog person – I love dogs. I have a dog. But shouldn’t a dog that’s the star of a movie have SOME redeeming qualities that make you care about it or want to take its side? I’ve read elsewhere that if you own a dog you’ll appreciate this movie. Yeah, right. There’s a scene where they try to take the dog to a trainer and it’s so out of control (and they, so inept) that the trainer (Kathleen Turner) throws them out of class. They think the whole thing is funny.

I’m watching this film thinking they need to call that guy “The Dog Whisperer” to teach them how to control the darned dog. If I had an infant in the house and the dog was such a pain in the butt that the baby couldn’t sleep, I’m sorry but it would be gone.

I mean during the entire movie I’ll bet if you combined all the time that the dog was actually shown to be doing something that endeared it to the audience, it would total MAYBE two minutes. I kept waiting for something to happen that would make me care about the dog – hell, I thought maybe it would get shot by a burglar, having alerted and saved the family. But no – nothing like that. It’s just an incorrigible dog owned by a couple too weak or lazy to discipline it. Heck, they painted such a bad picture of Marley at one point I was in fear that it was going to hurt one of the babies in the film.

Beyond that, sexual references to the dog “losing its balls,” the beginnings of a sex scene (sure, they’re fully clothed, but my daughter next to me was visibly uncomfortable), an obvious skinny dipping scene (again nothing shown, sorry guys, but a couple skinny dipping in a PG movie?) and a number of “B-level” curse words don’t exactly add up to a movie I’d recommend to my friends with children.

For me the best thing in the movie was Alan Arkin – the man is hysterical and I only wish he had more screen time. Really, this felt like a Lifetime Channel TV movie… some day I’d love to see Jennifer Aniston in something really GOOD.

Our Rating:

2.5 out of 5
(Fairly Good)