Directed by: David Frankel
Premise: A true story about newspaper columnist John Grogan (Owen Wilson) and his wife Jennifer (Jennifer Aniston) as they adopt a dog and raise a family.
What Works: Marley & Me is–unexpectedly–very good. What first looks like the typical Lassie-style dog adventure turns into a very touching story about a family and specifically about a couple transitioning into middle-age. Marley is ever present but the focus of the story is on the couple as they change their lifestyle to accommodate a dog and, later on, children. Owen Wilson and Jennifer Aniston are able to do some of the best work of their careers in this film, acting less loony than usual and the two recognizable movie stars are given room to play regular people, which they do well. As a result, this is probably one of the best acting projects Wilson or Aniston have worked on. The film’s regard for Marley as an animal is unique. There are no celebrity voiceovers, no rescuing children from wells, and–perhaps most uniquely–no anthropomorphizing the animal into anything other than a dog. As a result, the film captures the reality of the pet owner’s life and anyone who has owned a pet, wanted to own a pet, or been around someone who did will recognize some of the scenarios and ups and downs of maintaining a dog.
What Doesn’t: Because this is a dog movie, most people will know where the story is going to end up and the conclusion is shamelessly manipulative and very sentimental, although most of it is earned. Although the film deals with the transition into middle age, the film does not reveal very much about it or provide new insights into growing up. This is largely due to the characters going through the perils of life without having to make many choices or face the consequences of those choices.
Bottom Line: Marley & Me is a good date movie and a fun family film. It is a little low on substance but the film has a great deal to offer as a piece of entertainment.
Episode: #223 (January 18, 2009)