Few people with access to multimedia haven't heard of Marley and Me. John Grogan's newspaper columns about his lovably ill-behaved Labrador Retriever Marley were a massive success, and the book he wrote about the dog cemented the story's status. Marley and Me's narrative strongly resonates with the public, because it simultaneously deals with both the aggravating and rewarding aspects of owning a dog, and never separates the two. The inevitable ending, with Marley passing of old age, moved many people to tears ( myself included ). The novel is a nuanced and poignant look at how a dog can uniquely shape a family; as Grogan struggles to create both a career and a family, Marley remains a pillar of tail-wagging fortitude.
The book had a movie made of it, released at the end of 2008. However, the sensitivity and depth of the book is all but lost. The dogs used to play Marley are adorable, and effectively capture the different ages ( puppy, young adult, and older adult ) and their distinctive characteristics. Sadly, the human actors are not so talented. John Grogan is played by Owen Wilson, whose wit is about as subtle as a blonde, grinning sledgehammer to the face. Jennifer Aniston plays Grogan's wife Jenny with the same self-conscious appeal to the camera, and even her emotional moments-- most notably her struggles with postpartum depression-- come across as irritating and forced. The dog's antics are adorable, but the people are just one-dimensional.
Nevertheless, I will admit that I cried at the ending, as Wilson's Grogan must put down the aged and ailing Marley. Of course, the passing of a beloved pet is a dramatic cheap shot, and could touch the hearts of all but the most cold-blooded murderers. This, in a nutshell describes the Marley and Me movie; a flimsy excuse to see dogs doing dog things, running and jumping and knocking things over.
Marley and Me was a massively successful movie, and is available on DVD, complete with deleted scenes and gag reels. It is an entertaining movie; but it is only so based on the strength of the dogs. When you watch it, you know exactly what you are getting into and will not be surprised, but you will likely enjoy it.
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About the author:
A freelance writer/cartoonist living in LA, with my fiance' and our wonderful cat. You can see my work at www.rubysworldcomic.com and rubynation.smackjeeves.com