Marley and Me Review

Published 6 years ago by , Updated January 6th, 2009 at 1:23 pm,

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.

marley and me review Marley and Me Review
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)

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104 Comments - Comments are closed.

  1. @Doug C
    Go rent “My Dog Skip.” Now THAT’S a great dog movie with tons of heart. You won’t regret it.

    The VAST majority of people who go see this movie will not have read the book. A movie should be able to tell a story and stand on its own without a prerequisite of having read the source material. As to your comment about my expectations, even YOU mention that in the book the dog brings the family closer together. I saw no such thing in this film.

    Every dog I’ve ever owned I’ve gotten from the pound, and I’ve TRAINED it to behave, unlike the knuckleheads in this movie. And although I realize that in your world dog = child, in my world child > dog. Sorry.

    I’ve owned dogs all my life, but people are people and pets are pets. As I said above, every dog/cat I’ve owned has come from a shelter. If I had a dog destroying my house I would TRAIN IT. If I had a cat (far less trainable) that peed all over my house no matter what I did to try to teach it not to, it would be GONE. I would be fearful if you ever had a child. If your house was on fire it sounds like you might actually hesitate and have to think about whether to rescue your infant (which you would have only “known” for a few weeks/months) or a your dog that you would have had for years.

    Thanks for all the feedback, folks. It seems to me that the movie just didn’t manage to convey the true core of the book.

    Again, I say to you all, go rent “My Dog Skip” if you want the best “dog movie” ever. And yes, the dog dies at the end of that one but it’s not graphic at all, while it is sad.


  2. This movie stars Owen Wilson, Jennifer Aniston, and a dog — so that’s three mutts in one movie. How could anyone expect it to be worth seeing?

  3. @ash

    Yes it is based on real life but would you really expect to have such an upsetting ending to a movie that is suppose to be enjoyable especially on Christmas? Yes if you have read the book you know what happens at the end but for thoose who havent you dont expect the dog to die and have them show it being injected with the drug to kill it. If I saw this on Christmas (and im glad I didnt) I would not be so jolly anymore either since I have always grown up with three or four labradors in my house so I dont think this would make a lovely Christmas memory.
    Even the grumpiest people like to be happy on Christmas :)

  4. a ” this movie may be to emotional for anyone who has a heart and soul”

  5. Is not a pre-requisite for seeing a movie read the book, but if you are going to do a review you should have all the facts and don´t go with ohhh is just a boring movie, about a dog… sorry you can´t call yourself a dog lover even if you have one that don´t make you a dog lover… a dog lover is someone that cares about his dog like one more on the family, don´t say if you bite this you will be on the street, YOUR MOM left you out on the street the day that you broke something????????
    Yes all on the movie and on the book is about real life and as we all know is not always happily ever after…
    and for the people that follow only reviews is a shame if that person tell you to jump of a cliff you will do it???
    and Theresa that is rigth ” this movie may be to emotional for anyone who has a heart and soul”

  6. @Lola

    Again, another ludicrous comparison. Anyone who puts a dog at the same level as a child should NEVER have one IMHO.



  7. I find it hilarious these people who would compare a dog to a human child. Something tells me they don’t have any kids…

  8. I havnt seen such passion for a lame film, since “Fire Proof” …
    Sheeeeeeessshhhh Vic maybe you should have reviewed Valkrye or gawd forbid The Spirit?

    At least we could all get behind hating those films.

    Seems like if you have any bad comments about this tender warm family dog epic, your gonna automatically be labeled a dog hater.
    Lola,,, your comments on reviewing films arnt really practical. I don’t expect Vic to read the novel before he sees films. Your letting your emotions override your common sense…
    If you couldn’t tell this film would suck your emotions dry, you havnt seen that many dog centric films…

  9. Not that Vic is, he obviously isn’t, but even IF he was a dog hater… who cares? Nobody is required to love dogs, cats, lizards, or anything else. If someone wants to hate dogs, then whatever. Maybe they don’t like the constant demand of attention dogs often come with, or maybe their schedule doesn’t allow for them to walk the dog every morning, or maybe they don’t like having something that barks at every car that goes by for no apparent reason. Who knows why and who really cares. I don’t get why people get so defensive and take it so personal at the mere concept of someone not liking dogs. It’s not like we said we don’t like your family or something, someone doesn’t like dogs and don’t want to have one, hey, it’s a free country isn’t it? Well, hopefully that doesn’t change coming next month…

  10. You know what this means? Since none of us have wielded mutant super powers or highly technological body armor, we can’t write about those movies either. Right?

    I mean, that is, for those of you who don’t have those powers. I play it low key that I have a super power of walking, talking and using my mind at the most critical of times!

  11. I have a superpower but you have to pull my finger to activate it. :-)

  12. @ Vic :
    I happen to be a parent, my friend. So, do not insult me and say that you would be concerned if I had children. To imply that I would leave an infant inside a burning house while I rescued my dog is just an insult and another indication of your character. I happen to be a wonderful mom of 3 boys and I happen to be raising them to develop a sense of compassion and respect for all living creatures.
    I do not need to justify to you what I would do if my house were on fire, but you can rest assured that my children would come first.

    Your comment about training your animal if it were out of control….***claps for you***. Now, that is an intelligent stance. However, your comment about wishing the dog had been shot, that just discredits any other valuable points you are trying to make in your “review”.
    In addition, your reference to the owners of the dog being too lazy to train the dog, I’ll give you that as a direct comparison to our society……buy a cute puppy, having no clue about what you are going to do in the months to come and blatantly ignore the need for good quality, positive and consistent training, and you have a recipe for disaster. This ends up turning the dog into a target of abuse in many cases because it’s human counterparts do not have effective means for dealing with it’s behavior. In the end, the only one to blame is the owner, for being so naive and uneducated about reality. Again, another grim example of our society.

  13. I come back and read these for a laugh. Some of you are acting like this movie is an animal cause, and that not liking the movie makes you some horrible person. The animal activists seem to be trying to score on the people who did not see the undisclipined dog as wonderful, like the “accept everything” attitude is something holy. Can you say “over-react” boys and girls? Can you say “movie review”?

    The point is not that the movie wasn’t funny…until the end…it was. That’s what it was supposed to be. It’s not a cause, or a crusade, it’s just a movie! It was supposed to be a funny movie, to go see and feel good on Christmas. It isn’t a feel good movie! My daughter is the ultimate animal person. She worked for the Humane Society, she has a dog, a cat and a bird. She works with rescued birds and horses. She hated the end of this movie!

    I feel the same way about annoying children…funny if you are watching them on film…disgusting in person. Doesn’t mean I want to watch them grow up(or not grow up) and die. Hey, that’s a life lesson too, right? But, it boggles the mind to say that children(or anyone) should watch hospital or accident scenes of people dying so that they will understand reality. Dog on the table at the vet’s office with tubes…what’s the real difference? Death is the end of living whether you walk on two feet, four, swim, walk or fly. After all, to people who feel like their animals are part of the family…that’s their right. You don’t feel that way, that’s your right.

    End of the day…based on the ending, not a movie I would recommend to anyone, period…

  14. I agree Christmas was not the best time to premiere this movie and that the commercials do not prepare you for the events of the story. I’ve read the book and knew what I was getting into. I also own labs which is why I read the book and wanted to see the movie, even though it had actors I don’t like in it. Labs are a breed apart, if you own one you known what I mean, if you don’t…I’m sorry you just don’t get it and never will.

    My shock is the comments on this site about the movie. I’ve really enjoyed Screenrant but it saddens and offended me to read such callous comments made by some of you guys. It’s a movie about a couple getting a dog, building a family, dealing with life and the loss of one frustrating, furry, devoted, beloved, friend, and companion. Short of the matter it is a real story and someone decided to share it with the world because the dog made that much of an impact in his family’s life and felt people should know about it.

    Your comments have turned the review into a contest of whose life is more important, a child’s or a dog’s, and it was never a point in the movie. I hope no one ever has to go through that kind of decision but geez guys that’s more depressing than the end of the movie.

    If your kids became uncomfortable in the pseudo-sex scenes, parents need to open your eyes. This means they know what it is and it’s time you talk to them so they won’t be uncomfortable with you about it and so they don’t have a “woops” Plus I’ve seen more skin and more graphic reenactments of sex on prime time television than this movie had. Do you not watch tv with your kids? Maybe you should.

    The “graphic” ending (I ponder how a shot into an IV and falling asleep be labeled graphic) is about death. It’s a responsibility to teach children how to handle death in a healthy way and teach them the things they need to handle grief and loss. Better through a movie than when it’s someone they know and you are trying to deal with your own grief.

    My last thought on the comments is I dare you to hit your kids as hard and as often as you would hit the dog. You won’t keep those kids for long. A fearful dog isn’t a trained dog just like an abused child isn’t a healthy child.

    Some people don’t like dogs and some people don’t like kids. You liked the movie or you didn’t like the movie. My point to the comments of the group is that children and dogs both need to be trained, taught, nurtured, and loved. It’s sad that some folks have never had their life enhanced by the unconditional love, frustration, happiness, devotion, and companionship a four-foot can bring… which was really the message of the movie.

  15. @ TalynRider:

    ******Standing Ovation******

  16. @Jill

    First off, I want to apologize for the “children” remark. I attributed a comment regarding kids and dogs being equivalent that was not made by you. Second, my remark about Marley being shot didn’t mean I *wanted* to see him shot, not at all – it was an example of something that would have made all the trouble he caused worth putting up with. I wanted to see something… ANYTHING that indicated this pain in the butt dog was worth putting up with. Whether it be heroic, consoling, whatever.

    I’m sorry we got off on the wrong foot, but let me assure you that I am as horrified and disgusted by cases of animal abuse as you are.

    “dealing with life and the loss of one frustrating, furry, devoted, beloved, friend, and companion.”

    One of my major issues with the film is that they did NOT suhow the “devoted… friend and companion” aspect in the movie. In virtually every single scene in the movie the dog was being frustrating, annoying and destructive. I didn’t see much anything to offset this in the way of “good” behavior or even just plain old companionship that made the dog worthwhile.

    I recall ONE single scene that lasted about 10 seconds – when the wife had miscarried, that the dog was portrayed as being loving/supportive/whatever.

    That was IT.


  17. @Jill

    I sent an email to you right before seeing your comment above. :-)

    It seems that we need to add something to the “topics you don’t discuss at cocktail parties.” In addition to religion, sex and politics it seems we need to add “pets.” :-P



  18. Apparently DOGS are as big of a controversial topic as religion and politics. Sad isn’t it??

    And Vic, it’s not pets, it’s simply dogs. If the topic were cats, lizards, fish, or any other animal, you won’t get the same level of fanaticism, I guarantee you. Dogs evolved in a way to kind of “lure” humans into taking them in. The concept of people domesticating dogs is actually backward in a way. There is evidence that the dogs actually seeked out the humans due to diminishing supply of food in the areas where wild dogs and humans had to coexist. That’s why a lot of these physical features that are considered “cute” ended up being passed down from generation to generation when in the wild, these very characterizations would almost always result in that animal’s death because they are not well suited to their survival. One of these are the ears that fold down. In the wild, ears that fold down equal a diminished sensitivity to sound. This can result in death by other predators or simply a diminished ability to be an effective predator. In a highly competitive situation where food sources are scarce, this can be a death sentence and those features would die out with those animals. Another “cute” feature that people love are short legs. Short legs mean more effort in running and decreased speed, which in the wild would normally equal death to that dog. And the last one I would like to point out is the shortened snout. I forgot what the main disadvantage to this is, whether it was detrimental to their sensitivity to scent or their ability to tear flesh since this means fewer teeth as well, but it is definitely NOT a good quality for a wild dog to have. Normally the dogs with these features would have died out, but due to the fact that humans find any sign of weakness or dependency as “cute,” the dogs with these features often seeked out food from humans and eventually they were domesticated.

    Of course selective breeding have resulted in highly exaggerated versions of these defects, the model of the weakest dog in the wild would be something like a pug that has ALL of these features as well as an overall smaller size… And these “ultra dependent” dogs are the result of humans selectively breeding the “cute” features over the years.

    Babies are specifically supposed to appear “cute” with the fat pudgy legs and arms and face so parents are less likely to want to kill them. Seriously, we didn’t always have these laws and these moral codes and all that. Before, when man was living outdoors, fighting for every scrap of food, having another mouth to feed that cannot hunt or run on its own was a major detriment to the clan, so they were made to look helpless and “cute” to invoke a motherly and even fatherly response from the people. Apparently this sense of dependency being cute thing works for dogs too. You notice the more dependent a dog is, the cuter they are? A big dog that looks like it’s able to survive in the wild by itself is not considered as cute as a small “Tea cup” dog that will basically die within a day of being released in the wild. I guess it’s an instinctive drive that we have to want to protect the helpless.

    I’m kind of the opposite, I hate those little small overly dependent dogs. I want something like a Rotweiler or a German or Dutch Shepherd of something that can take care of itself. I think an animal’s love and devotion feels more rewarding when it feels like it was earned and not just hurriedly given to you because the animal NEEDS you there and knows if it doesn’t show love you might not feed it tomorrow…

    Uh oh, I feel a flame coming because I put a scientific spin on it, lol.

  19. @ Ken
    There is something just bizarre about this…LMAO :

    “I’m kind of the opposite, I hate those little small overly dependent dogs. I want something like a Rotweiler or a German or Dutch Shepherd of something that can take care of itself. I think an animal’s love and devotion feels more rewarding when it feels like it was earned and not just hurriedly given to you because the animal NEEDS you there and knows if it doesn’t show love you might not feed it tomorrow…”

    Do you like your women like that too? Hahahaha.
    Not an insult…just a question that came to my mind at the moment.

  20. Haha, which part? The being able to take care of herself part or the earning the love part? Well, I do kind of not like the weak-minded overly submissive women as well. lol

    But again, don’t start comparing dogs to people! haha. ;-)

  21. Lol, Ken you took this conversation right into the Twilight Zone. ;-)

    “Tonights episode”

    The K-9 agenda.

  22. Hey, you never know, I might have uncovered something huge… I might get a visit from Mulder and Scully… (is that how you spell their names? Never really watched x-files, lol)

  23. Lol, yeah you nailed the spelling Ken,,,

    My spell check translates
    Mulder and Scully into Murder and Sully… ;-)

  24. it was a wonderful movie. I saw it without my teenagers, so I could check it out. I might take the older girl, but not my youngest. she is very sensitive to certain issues involving animals. I think the scene at the end would be too much for her.
    Yes, I had tears rolling down my face at the end. But all I could think of was the love I’d had for pets throughout my lifetime. It was a great movie. Not for the overly sensitive or little, little children. Children are going to learn sooner or later the hard lessons of life. This movie is probably more appropriate for age 14 and up. Probably have some good discussions afterward about the lessons taught in the movie.

  25. I enjoyed this movie very much. I took my wife to see it, and by the end the two of us were in tears. It made me think about my own dog, who I love so much. And how glad I am to still have him, and how sad it’s going to be when he eventually passes on.

    We both really enjoyed this movie, but I do agree that it’s not for kids.