Eric D. Snider

Marley & Me

Movie Review

Marley & Me

by Eric D. Snider

Grade: C

Released: December 25, 2008

 

Directed by:

Cast:

"Marley & Me" would probably be a fine man-and-his-dog film if it actually were a man-and-his-dog film. But it isn't. It's an anemic comic-drama about a dull couple searching for happiness, and they happen to have a dog. Sometimes the dog takes over the movie, and the movie perks up for a while. Then the dog becomes a background character, and the movie flatlines. The lesson we learn: Either be a dog movie, or be something else, but don't try to be both.

It's based on the bestselling memoir by John Grogan, the "Me" of the title, and it begins in 1990 with newlyweds John (Owen Wilson) and Jennifer (Jennifer Aniston) buying an adorable yellow Labrador puppy named Marley. The dog's sale price is discounted, presumably because even though he is only a few weeks old, he is already known by the owner to be disobedient and mischievous.

Many of the early scenes focus on Marley's energetic but unmalicious refusal to conform to domestic dog norms. He tears up everything he can get his mouth on. He barks ceaselessly during thunder storms, which occur frequently in South Florida, where the Grogans live. He is notorious among dogsitters and neighbors. There is leg-humping, naturally. Some of this stuff is precious and amusing, liable to entertain young children -- but children really shouldn't be watching this movie, since it's actually for adults.

The Grogans adore Marley but are exasperated by his rambunctious, destructive behavior. They put forth almost no effort to train him -- and sure enough, he turns out to be a terrible dog! They remind me of parents who do nothing to discipline their children, then act like the kids' awful behavior was completely unpreventable.

John and Jennifer work at competing newspapers, he as a news reporter, she as a features writer. John is promoted by his boss (Alan Arkin, in a thankless role) to be a columnist, which disappoints John because he wants to write hard news, bring down corruption, infiltrate drug cartels, etc. But columns are popular, especially when they're about naughty dogs, and John allegedly has a knack for telling humorous stories. Meanwhile, he and Jen start having kids, which means Jen has to give up her career and stay home and grow resentful.

The film covers a span of about 15 years, from 1990 to the mid-2000s, though none of the characters seem to age or change their hairstyles, except for the young Grogan children. And speaking of them, the film provides exactly one brief scene showing their devotion to Marley, then expects us to feel their sorrow when Marley gets sick. Were it not for that scene, we'd have thought the kids considered Marley a piece of furniture that they happen to share a house with.

And that is the film's basic problem: it doesn't know what kind of movie it is. Sometimes Marley is the focal point; other times he is merely a detail barking offscreen. The director, David Frankel ("The Devil Wears Prada"), tries to have it both ways, hoping we'll be as interested in John and Jen's marital struggles as we are in Marley's hijinks. It probably goes without saying that, well, we aren't. Wilson and Aniston are Hollywood's version of Wonder bread -- familiar, likable, but bland -- and the film's final assertion that Marley has taught the Grogans something about life rings hollow, since nothing leading up to that point has indicated any such thing.

Grade: C

Rated PG, some vulgarity and innuendo, a little profanity, very brief partial nudity

2 hrs., 4 min.

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This item has 23 comments

  1. Jacob says:

    What happened to Wilson either? He used to be the guy whose every word -- nay, every thought -- was funny.

  2. Justin says:

    I thought this movie was fantastic! I disagree with Eric about this film. Sure, it is more than just a silly comedy about a misbehaving dog. I think this movie knows exactly what it is - a thoughtful, often funny, reflection of John Grogan's life which happens to include his beloved dog Marley and the moments he shared with him. Hence the title "Marley & Me" and not just "Marley," or just "Me." I think if Eric had a wife, kids, or dog he'd understand. Heck, I don't have a dog (or even like dogs very much) and I loved this movie. I give it an A.

  3. Eric D. Snider says:

    I think if Eric had a wife, kids, or dog he'd understand.

    I think if Justin saw more movies he'd understand.

    (See? Annoying, isn't it?)

  4. Adrienne says:

    Hey, did the constant hair flipping by Jennifer Aniston every get annoying in the movie?

  5. Cathy says:

    Eric, I have to say this movie probably just made you mad that the dog died! I don't understand how you got this Review out of that movie. Going back to the part where you said "the film provides exactly one brief scene showing their devotion to Marley, then expects us to feel their sorrow when Marley gets sick. Were it not for that scene, we'd have thought the kids considered Marley a piece of furniture that they happen to share a house with." Did you have your eyes closed through half the movie?? I don't know what you were watching, but I saw numerous parts involving the kids devotion to their pet, The pool scene where they were playing basketball with marley were one of my favourites. You were reacting to the film as if you expected it to be all about Marley, You seemed to forget the other half of the Title, Marley & ME! I thought this film was fantastic, and any animal lover should see it. It's realistic, Its not some phony film of a perfect family and their superdog. It shows Up's and Down's of a normal family. Almost every pet owner i have known has had a little peice Marley in their pets. I own 3 dogs and their not perfect but thats the "joy" of owning animals. This movie did make me angry, but it also made me Laugh, Cry, and remind me how much I do love my Dogs. Isn't that the point of a movie?? Maybe you should Stick to Animal Movies Like Air Bud.

  6. Tadaia says:

    I have to agree with Cathy and Justin. It was wonderful. My mother and I went to see this together. The thing we both agreed on (and were relieved to see) was that this wasn't some silly or maudlin tale as you often get with films involving animals. It wasn't too "deep", yet it felt genuine. Marley was actually portrayed as a REAL dog... not some far-fetched half-dog/half-human creation. I have a friend that will soon be experiencing what John had to go through and the film was actually therapeutic for her.

    I note that Eric Snider seemed to take issue with the dog coming on and off the radar in the film. That was actually a feature I liked in the movie... like real life (at least for most) a dog is an important part of the family but errrmm its still just a "dog". That is, its usually not the center of any family's universe. Pets every so often make themselves the center of attention but most often they're kind of just THERE.

  7. Lexington Smith says:

    Eric D. "Snidely" Snider writes: "Were it not for that scene, we'd have thought the kids considered Marley a piece of furniture that they happen to share a house with."

    Way to end the sentence in a preposition, you useless tool. It's hard to believe but your snotty views are just as lousy as your writing.

  8. Eric D. Snider says:

    Aw, it's so cute when people grasp at straws! Any writing or grammar expert under the age of 90 will tell you there is nothing inherently wrong with ending a sentence with a preposition, particularly in loose, semi-formal writing. It's a leftover rule from a stuffier age.

  9. Jake says:

    Eric,

    You don't cut it as a movie critic bud. If you ever plan to get sem-professional about it, get used to people disagreeing with you views about films, rather than throwing out a baby-tantrum statement like this.

    "Aw, it's so cute when people grasp at straws! Any writing or grammar expert under the age of 90 will tell you there is nothing inherently wrong with ending a sentence with a preposition, particularly in loose, semi-formal writing. It's a leftover rule from a stuffier age."

    or this,

    "I think if Justin saw more movies he'd understand.
    (See? Annoying, isn't it?)"

    Your such a child, its unbearable to read.

    This film is a refreshing change of pace from the recent garbage we've bee thrown the past couple months. Owen Wilson and Jennifer Anniston do a fantastic job. Take the family, bring some tissue, and have a blast. A+ Film.

  10. Brian says:

    I tried to leave out comparisons between the book (which I loved) and the movie when I saw it, but it was difficult and I ended up disliking this movie quite a bit. Casting Owen Wilson and Jennifer Anniston was a bad move, unless they were trying to make this into a kid's movie. Having a bit of a..lively..dog myself, I related to the characters in the book easily. They were regular people who behave like regular people. It seemed like the movie was more of a 'fixed' or 'placed' comedy where people accidently order too many banana cream pies simply to justify a pie throwing scene.
    The movie was ok overall, but my bias towards the book most likely diminished from my movie experience. I didn't find either Wilson's or Anniston's acting to be believable.

    Oh and Jake, when you go off telling someone how much of a child they are, it helps to know the difference between "your" and "you're".

  11. Cathy says:

    Ok Ok. Is this a movie review or an attacking session?? What's with people getting angry at the fact that someone disagrees with them *cough, Eric, Cough*. Jake I agree with you 100%. Eric its perfectly fine that you disagree with someone, but you don't have to react like a child with these childish responses. Your acting as though everyone should agree with your review and we should all feel the same about the movie, This may not be your intention but you are giving off the feeling. It's hard to take anyone seriously when they act like that. We like the movie, you didn't. Let's All move on.

  12. Eric D. Snider says:

    See, if you look at what I *actually* wrote in my responses, you'll see I have no problem with people disagreeing with my opinion of the film. What I have a problem with is people stating untruths: One person said I didn't like the film because I don't have a family or a dog (and that is not why I didn't like the film, and it's annoying to have a stranger tell you "why" you didn't like something); another person said it's poor writing to end a sentence with a proposition (which is incorrect). You may examine the other 2,500 reviews on this site and find I seldom respond to any comments, except to correct errors. I grant you that I responded to these in a persnickety way -- but honestly, I have little patience for being psychoanalyzed by strangers, or for people who disagree with me and therefore grasp at straws to discredit my writing.

  13. Cathy says:

    Eric, I do read your other reviews, and I like most of them. I DO read what you actually write. There is nothing wrong with responding to someone who is "attacking" you on your grammer or whatever he was doing, It's a movie review, Not an English Session. I just think being who you are and what you do as far as criticing movies, you would have addressed the person more professionaly, instead of stooping down to a childish level. Lots of people look at these reviews before they watch a movie to See what they are in for, or if it's worth watching, Others read this to add input. I would hope you write these reviews for "the people" others wise it would be a waste of time. After reading some comments You make to other people i would say to myself "Who cares what this guy says, What does he Know" They speaking in general wouldn't take you seriously at all. I know I wouldn't want that, I value what people think of what i write, and I am not meaning that you don't. Your a great writer, and I read your reviews often, I was just suprised that someone would act like that in this "business" when someone was attacking you or getting under your skin.

  14. Dave says:

    Cathy, I think you'll find that Eric simply gives back what he is given himself. If someone was to disagree with him or correct his grammar (even if the "correction" was wrong) in a decent, respectful manner themselves, Eric probably wouldn't say a word. But if someone comes out and calls him a useless tool or makes baseless assumptions about him, then he responds in kind, just as I would. Sure, it's a little childish (it's the schoolyard "Oh yeah?" "YEAH!" mentality at work),but at the risk of prolonging the childishness, they started it. :)

  15. Cathy says:

    Dave, I don't think you read exactly what i wrote. I wasn't saying it was right for someone to call him a useless tool, but unfortunatly in this kind of situation and by this i mean Criticing Films, Your going to have have all kinds of people call you an idiot, Stupid, "useless tool" every name in the book, just because they didn't like what you said and they are going to say everything they can just to hurt you and make you sound like you don't know what your talking about. I was simply calling his responses Childish not him. If someone is going to call me a useless tool I probably wouldn't give them the satisfaction of retaliating. I think Eric is a Good Critic, but your right this is getting a little "school yard" and it should just end here. To remind everyone these are public opinions, free for anybody. We are going to have everything from being called stupid to people aggreeing 100% with what people say. It's just the way these things work. I hope i'm not coming off rude thats not my intention, That what's hard about these things, You truley can't understand exactly what the person is trying to say.

  16. wendi says:

    I thought the way the dog was allowed to run amoke was annoying. When he was put down at the end I also felt put out of misery. And Aniston as Rachel Green once again? I kept waiting for Ross Gellar to walk through the door and try to get back with her. Owen Wilson has a case of "same face" in all his movies. Does he even act? Must be hard for Owen Wilson to act like Owen Wilson. Same look, voice, acting in every movie. And his nose is getting worse. I wanted to yell, "CUT! Makeup!" and have someone tone down that redness. It was distracting. Look, I love dogs. I've had them my whole life. I spent close to 6 grand to save one of my dogs that had cancer. But this dog made me want to give him the Old Yeller treatment before the movie was half over. And I thought the acting was horrible.

  17. John Richardson says:

    Good review! Exactly how I felt about this movie - I wish they had trained the dog; but even more than that I wish this movie had never been made - two hours out of my live and 16 bucks out of my wallet that I'll never get back. It's a sappy, thin premise to start with, made worse by the two most generic actors working in Hollywood today. Full of continuity glitches and unbelievable time progession (after three kids and 15 years the parents don't age??) the producers could have saved us all a bunch of trouble by diverting just the catering budget on this flick towards obedience school for the dog. And a nose job for Wilson.

  18. katie says:

    I disagree with this review. The movie knew excatly what type of movie it was. it wasnt suppose to be a "dog" film. It was suppose to be about the ups and downs of life and how un-judgmental a dog can be. the point is that no matter how bad the dog was he was a member of the family so they loved him, and the other way around too. the end of the movie just sums it up. When John Grogan is talking about how if you give a dog your heart he will give you his. It may not have been the best movie of 2008 but it was lovable and an amazing family movie.

  19. joshua says:

    Being a box office hit, I thought I would enjoy this movie..I was disappointed..the story is very lame, predictable and should it be funny or drama or both? I think Aniston acted well her part, while I did not see any variation of emotions from Wilson (it was like he just memorized his dialogues) and the dog, although lovable, its constant running, gnawing, undisciplined ways are quite disturbing to see. I failed to see why 2 professional adult could have not disciplined a bit the dog when he was still a puppy? Although the 3 main characters acted the way it was written on the script, unfortunately, the connection of emotion is still missing.

  20. David says:

    Eric,

    If you feel that people are belittling you and discrediting your writing, don't bother responding to them. You have no reason to defend yourself against such trite blather. All you will do is encourage them to make more snide remarks whenever they disagree with whatever you say. It also reveals that they are making you feel unstable and insecure, which is probably what they seek to do anyway.

    I for one agree with your review. It was difficult to tell whether this was a movie about a cute dog, or a bland family drama with all too familiar cliches. The problem is that a movie about an animal (unless it's a cute Disney movie or if the animals talk, or save people a la Lassie) really isn't that interesting. However the family storylines, which had potential to become interesting, never really do because not enough time is spent on them and the characters of John and Jennifer are all too familiar.

    The bottom line is the review is your opinion, and other people are free to ignore it, just as you're free to ignore their inane rants.

    So go ahead people, and bash me if you will. I could care less what an immature fool thinks of me.

  21. kevith says:

    How did I not see all the fun happening in this thread until now? Too bad I missed most of it.

    While everyone is entitled to their opinion, I'm also entitled to think that someone who honestly thinks this movie was amazing or gives it an A+ probably doesn't have an opinion that is worth my time. For future reference, if you're going to comment on a movie that you love but that Eric gave a mediocre grade, just put your own grade at the front. It would save me a lot of time knowing which commenters' opinions I can skip.

    And to quote the sentence often attributed to Winston Churchill regarding the old "rule" about ending a sentence with a preposition: "This is the sort of ... nonsense up with which I will not put.

  22. TashaKay says:

    This movie was so bland, it's hard for me to realize that people would care enough to defend it. It was mildly entertaining and worth the $1 I paid to rent it. Definitely a C movie -- it's not like Eric gave it an F. Owen Wilson appeared to be phoning in his performance and Jennifer Aniston -- well, what can you say? In ten years, her skin is going to look all beautiful and leathery, like a catcher's mitt. That's mainly what I noticed about her was her ridiculously tanned skin.

    Also, people, if who want to be taken seriously when you leave a post, don't just randomly capitalize words and completely misuse punctuation. It may sound snotty, and I know this is just the Internet, and not "grammer" class, but it's hard to believe your opinions are worth much when it's so difficult to decipher them.

  23. Jezebel says:

    Eric,

    You are such a JERK! See? Two people here don't like you.

    Ha! They're the tools. To hit below the belt and ridicule a person for his marital status!? Honestly, that is just disgraceful. Any movie with a dog, chimp, pig, or any other animal in it deserves the full weight of Eric's critical pen. Why? Because it is over. Yep, it is all over. Nobody worth their weight in flesh and blood enjoys movies about dogs. Especially not about dogs that get loose on the beach, and then their owner runs after them practically whispering, "Marley,... Marley,... Marley," every five seconds (set your watch by it).

    I couldn't stand this movie. Eric was right. In fact, Eric was mighty generous, if you ask me. If you liked it, there is something wrong with you. Look it up. It says so in the Encyclopedia.

    Jez

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