A fairly harmless tearjerker for doggie-lovers, “Marley and Me” has virtually no romantic intrigue or other conflicts, therefore no discernible drama. Its humor is generic, not clever but workable, its emotional values superficial but easily accepted, all surrounding the 13-year dog life.
It’s all about what turns out to be an irresistibly charming canine (played by 22 different dogs), a man’s-best-friend who takes awhile to become so. Told straight with no embellishment, it makes little of its likable lead characters. Give the film its due as a holiday-and-into-January audience appeal. Don’t be a meanie.
Aniston and Wilson are catchy together, the chemistry’s good. Although Aniston is a veteran pro at all these sitcom capers, Wilson appears a bit uneasy whenever the role requirements get touchy with depth, which, mercifully, is seldom.
They were journalists, these 30-something newlyweds, and they saw opportunity in moving out of Michigan for Palm Beach, Florida. Jenny Grogan (Jennifer Aniston) does OK with one newspaper as a feature writer. John’s work, however, with a competing paper, will not remain as a reporter like he’d wanted but, at the request of editor Arnie (Alan Arkin), as a twice-weekly columnist. His colleague, Sebastian (Eric Dane), he’s jealous to say, will succeed as a reporter.
Also unsettling in John’s life is the prospect of children. He’s uneasy about that. Sebastian suggests, well, get a puppy first. And that will be Marley, a Labrador retriever, who turns out to be hyper and will fairly turn the lives of John and Jenny upside-down. “He’s the world’s worst dog,” observes John. Marley gets thrown out of obedience school by the trainer (Kathleen Turner).
With the arrival of children in the family, three of them in fact, Marley gets worse. Indeed, as things go, he devours the sheet-rock walls, the sofas and a valuable necklace. He drinks from toilets, breaks just about everything and overturns garbage.
Somehow, he will find a fit as the move to Pennsylvania and their lives take on further challenge. Meantime, John’s pal Sebastian provides some emotional travail for him as the carefree bachelor who gets a job with the New York Times and scores regularly with the babes.
A very animated Aniston is lookin’ good, her classically tight figure, implausibly, appearing to be none the worse for wear physically from her character’s three births. She does her role with noticeable maturity compared to past roles and Wilson, despite an ill fit for the rare depthful moments, is OK.
“Marley and Me” (quality rating: 6 out of 10)
Director: David Frankel
Screenplay; Scott Frank, Donald Roos, based on the John Grogan’s bestselling memoir
Cast: Jennifer Aniston, Owen Wilson, Alan Arkin.
Time: 1 hr., 56 min.
Rating: PG (vulgarity, disturbing thematic material, sexually suggestive content)