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. yeah, I came home and hugged my dog (and my cats.) They add so much to our lives. I fuss at them for their antics, but I always love them. My mom lost her beloved cat several years ago, and it was just terrible for the whole family. I think the movie would be good to share with a teenager. Even at their age, they have lots of questions about life and death. At the end, I was sobbing so loud. I hid my face behind the popcorn bucket.

  2. Marley was too big for that little house he was living in. that’s why he chewed stuff and acted bad. He had too much energy. Dogs need space to run and frolic and be dogs. Big dogs like that are a handful. they would have been better off with a jack russell or something.

  3. Well, I put my cat to sleep years ago.
    NO WAY I am going to watch that on screen!
    thanks for the excellent review Vic!
    And God Bless pet lovers everywhere!

  4. My thoughts exactly, excellent review– maybe extreme dog lovers can put blinders on their critical thinking, but as a movie- this was a long dull time. And it has inappropriate moments for young kids which did tick me off, there was no depth or meaningful dog moments not counting the good bye to the dog by Owen near the end. It was oddly detached from its source material and seeing what a seemingly easy and wonderful life the Grogans’ have (Boca dream vacation home to most beautiful home in Philly)– you wonder what the point of it all was (my kid kept asking me about the stabbed teenage girl and what that was about… frankly, beyond getting them to Boca and the goodlife– I had no idea either.)

  5. Do NOT take your child to this movie. Truthfully, you should stay home, as well. This is proof of the garbage Hollywood knows how to produce.

    While advertised as a child’s movie, complete with funny, cutsie, dog scenes, this is anything but a child’s movie. Take your child, and in the first hour they will be exposed to a stabbing and mugging, lots of kissing and talk of sex, and a fetus that dies and has no heart beat.

    If you’re making an adult movie, market it as such. Don’t plaster children’s stations with cute dog commercials. You should be ashamed of yourselves.

  6. There was a movie a while ago about this old guy and his cat. And the cat would follow him everywhere, but in the end, he ended up giving the cat to a humane society because it fell ill to be put to sleep. But they didn’t show it, they simply implied it with the cat appearing ill, then the old man saying his good byes to his beloved cat in the humane society. And it even had a happy ending in that he goes to a beach or something and finds a stray cat there. The movie was not real exciting or anything, but that is still more kid friendly than what Vic and others have described about this movie.

    Anyone know what that movie was called by the way? I don’t remember too much about it though, saw it when I was pretty young, think it’s an older movie…

  7. @Ken J

    Don’t recall that one. But it was handled in a similar manner in “My Dog Skip.”

    I can NOT recommend that movie highly enough! You want to see a great movie about the relationship between an owner (a boy) and his dog that will make you well up, go rent or buy that movie.


  8. Then ending was a down, but I thought it had a lot of truth to it, and a good speech about man’s best friend and their unconditional love. It really rang true – at least to me.

  9. What bothers me is that they can’t be bothered to train this animal. They try one trainer; that doesn’t work; that’s it. Responsible, intelligent, loving dog owners have their dogs properly trained. Dogs WANT boundaries; they’re more comfortable knowing who the “alpha” in the pack is. By not having Marley properly trained, Grogan not only did a profound and cruel disservice to the dog, he showed himself for what he is: a crass, manipulative, bad writer who smelled fodder for his cheap newspaper column. Don’t give me that guff about “unconditional love”: this type of destructive behavior is abuse, clear and simple. It’s abusive toward the dog; it’s abusive toward those suffering the destruction the dog wreaks. I found it deeply ironic that Animal Planet was showing the trailer for this pathetic film during episodes of “It’s Me or the Dog.” If ever a family and their pet needed training and intervention like that portrayed in that wonderful TV series, it was the Grogan family and Marley. Unfortunately, Mr. Grogan was too busy exploiting the situation. And his hapless, good-intentioned, pet-loving audience.

  10. A movie is for entertainment. And so is a book, but this book is based on real life of a guy and his dog. You think some Hollywood idiot is going to convey that using people like Owen Wilson & Jennifer Aniston? Get real. Read the book to get a better POV from the author, not the Hollywood folks. Yes the movie shouldn’t have come out around Christmas – it is tough to watch with the kids about doggie death. But if you read the book, you’d know. Heck it is on every freaking shelf. They even have a kid version. So get over the movie thing. The book is better. This has nothing to do with whether you have kids vs. dogs, etc. PLEASE! Remember this was a real animal and a couple’s life. This happened to them. So quit being so freakin critical.

  11. Reply to MCL.

    I must respond to this! Read the book? It’s on every freaking shelf? You get real!

    1. I read constantly…but this is not my kind of reading. So what?

    2. Since when is reading “the book” a prerequisite for seeing a movie? What a spoiler! I have sometimes bought the book after seeing the movie…Dune come to mind. I usually enjoy the book more if I see the movie first, provided I loved the movie.

    3. Guess I, and everyone else, will be just as critical as we please. Not only are you being equally critical of us, but did you notice the name of the website? Hmmm, guess you didn’t “read” that!

    End of the day…lousy Christmas movie. And I will still not read the book if there is one, before I go see a movie. How narrow minded to suggest this is necessary. BTW, I went because the previews were funny. I would not have read the book, even if I had know there was one!

  12. Wow Jill! I totally agree with everything you said!! I want to share your comments with everyone I know, especially animal lovers. I did read the book, and loved the movie! I am in total shock at all of the criticism. Yes, it was very sad, however, I did not leave the theater depressed, quite the contrary…I was even more in love with Marley! What a wonderful, long life he had with a family that truly loved him. They didn’t just “toss him out or dump him,” he WAS a member of their family, and as we all know, you can’t just “get rid of” family. You love them unconditionally, just as animals do us.

  13. @8459

    You could have just said you didnt agree with Vic, that is just rude what you said.

  14. He’s such a little coward he doesn’t even put a name and I bet he didn’t use his real email address. Call Vic what you want. My name is Kenneth and Vic has my real email address and I’m telling you that you have no balls. Grow a pair you pansy. You are the morons that talk all of this crap online, but in real life you’re timid as heck in real life because you know if you get into a fist fight you’ll get your scrawny little pansy ass handed to you. So until you grow a pair of balls, take your little coward ass somewhere else.

  15. Oops, bad grammar, lol. I’m sure that little douche bag understands me anyhow…

  16. Thanks, guys but he’s gone. If he tries to post again I’ll just ban his dumb, cowardly ass.


  17. @8459, your words label you. Did you even see the movie? In case you didn’t notice… Vic’s website, Vic’s choice of venue, Vic’s the critic who made this possible. Agree or disagree, but try to be adult about it, or is that a stretch? Everyone has the right to their own opinion, but…you went way over the line.

    @Andrea Maybe you didn’t notice that animal rights, and the great debate over them, were already well covered. Animal rights have absolutely nothing to do with this movie or any critical opinions expressed about it. It was advertised as a comedy. It was a total downer of an ending for a feel good Christmas movie.

    I’m so glad it didn’t depress you…so happy for you…we cried, and cried some more. My daughter…#1 animal lover that I know, was extremely upset by the end of the movie. She used to have to put animals down at the Humane Society (and had to leave). She has done rescue work for ferrets, birds and horses. In the last few years, she has had to put down a beloved dog and two cherished 17 yr. old cats. It brought back horrible memories for her, and upset both of us for hours. Had a really merry Christmas dinner, not!

    So before you spread your sunshine about this movie, keep in mind…it’s still just your opinion and I’m entitiled to a different one.

    @Ken J <> she probably doesn’t have any. I found no flaws in your grammer.

  18. Go Vic!!!

  19. This is Bruce… one of the writers for Screen Rant. I get the animal issues and different perspectives. By virtue of rescue, my household is a small menagerie of sorts. Thank god I have allergies or it would be worse.

    I personally don’t like are movies where the dog you end up feeling for croaks at the end of a movie. I hate that. Egads, so many animals are victims of human perspectives. My black Lab, Izzie, was an adoption rescue. She was a hunters dog and when she got too old (around 5) for hunting, she was set loose by the owner. She doesn’t know toys or games or nothing. Her elbows are bare from living her days in a concrete kennel. I gotta love some people.

    @Vic: How dare you elicit your opinion on your website of opinions. Egads, what were you thinking? LOL. Some folk are pretty entertaining.

    @Everyone Else:

    You know what makes this sight great? You guys… the visitors. I visit many a site where people post their comments without reading the other comments. They spat their own little thing for whatever their reasons.

    Here on SR, you guys interact and partake in the conversation and even stand up for Vic and the rest of us scribes when there are emotionally challenged comments. I don’t see that on a lot of sites.

    Thank you everyone and have a safe and happy holiday.

    Sincerely, Bruce

  20. I just saw the movie after just reading the book. The movie isn’t 1/20th as good as the book, but it takes the time (and great writing of a John Grogan) of a book to truly come to love Marley. The movie didn’t give me any reason to love him, either, and I do love dogs (albeit we’ve chosen a small dog precisely to avoid Marley-like problems).

    They couldn’t have omitted the death scene and done justice to the book (not that they seriously did, anyway). My wife was reading the book aloud during a cross-country Christmas drive, and she could barely speak during that part, and tears were gushing from my eyes.

    Owen Wilson was horribly miscast in this role. I’m not enough of a movie buff to have a better suggestion, but he was the wrong choice. And could they have aged them at all during the 13 year time-span of the movie?

    The Grogans actually were on the Dog Whisperer, but to help cure their new Lab from killing their chickens (something Marley was too old to do by the time they got there). Cesar told them that Marley’s crazed behavior was entirely the Grogan’s doing.

  21. Scott: THANK YOU!

    There, proof positive I’m not insane. You loved the book, thought the movie did not give a reason to love the dog and as a cherry on top you bring up the Grogans and Cesar Chavez stating that the dog’s behavior was the Grogan’s doing (which I thought WAS conveyed in the film).

    Thanks SO much for taking the time to comment here, bro. :-)


  22. Right on, RoseMarie! I can just see everyone Christmas morning…”oh wait, I need to read the book “Marley and Me,” before we go to the movie!”

    Remember, how a lot of cute stuff was fast forwarded?? Wonder if it was the editing of the movie that went wrong. Who o.k’d the ending…oh well, I should be so lucky. lol

    Happy New Year!

  23. Worst Christmas Movie ever made. Greedy people, making an amateurish movie. False Advertising. Heel The Love with a Red Bow Around the little doggies neck.

    They could have tried to create a better “takeaway feeling” – (stopped with Luke Wilson & Marley in the field) than what happened in the end.

    Do not take kids to this movie.

    In my opinion, no one should have to see this move during the holidays, especially if you are a bright, innocent, and positive kid!


  24. Im sorry Vic but the movie showed more ways to love marley then the misscarriage scene. Do u remember the scene with hime laying down next to his son? or does the scene where the dog is always waiting for the kids after they get off the bus? Have you ever had to put a dog that you truly cared about and has been by yourside for a long part of your life down? maybe you have maybe you havent but its tough to do that. Then for the whole obedience thing with the dog. Why else would you come and watch the movie if their wasnt going to be some humor in it. You cant help but laugh because most dogs have done at least one thing Marley has done ” not as much tho” YOu shouldnt concentrate on the obedience part of the story. It was about a dog that had its up and downs but became part of their family. I do think that they totally blinded sided everyone with that ending tho. All the previews did not portray anything that said to happen so i agree with you there though. Sad sad sad movie. Its hard to recommend that movie to anyone cuz animal haters wont like it, its kinda inappriate for kids, and the animal lovers will be heart broken because animal lover will react to it different.

  25. my wife and i took my step children ages 13 and 6 to see a movie that seemed to be a great family movie. instead we left saddened by the death of one of mans best friends. we were hoping for a cheerful, happy, and comical end to the holiday season but it ended in tears. the motion picture association should warn viewers of the ending so they wont take their children to see the movie for parents that care for the childrens feelings. here we are on a fixed income and trying to slurge to see our children happy and go lucky but now we have to explain to a 6 year old if all dogs die that way and why did it happen to Marley. yes an adult would still get upset at the movie and be saddened but thats an adult. the ending of the movie is not suitable for children and a warning should be sent out to the future audiences. the previews show a heart warming, fun filled, family oriented movie but there is no warning whatsoever. take everyones feelings in mind.

  26. Family movie with a dog = $$$$

    warning = -$$