There are two things I need to disclose before you read my review of Marley & Me. One, I love dogs. And two, I don't cry at movies. I should also say I'm not one to shy away from violence in films. Blast away at human actors…blood, guts and gore don't bother me in the least. I know what I'm seeing on the screen isn't reality. There's no need for a 'no humans were injured in the making of this movie' disclaimer. I get it, and so most of the time I'm not affected by the death of a character in a movie. But make that injury or death happen to something with fur or wings and now we're entering emotionally rocky territory.
The trailer and TV spots make Marley & Me look like a cute, happy-go-lucky dog movie, but trailers are deceiving. Keep that in mind if you're going to be taking kids to see this film. There's a lot of frolicking, a lot of goofy behavior by the film's four-legged star, and definitely some big laughs at his antics, but Marley & Me also packs an emotional wallop. The film is based on writer John Grogan's experiences with his dog Marley, and if you've read Marley & Me you know where the story is headed. But kids won't know that, and the commercials and trailer really give no indication of just how hard Marley & Me is going to hit animal lovers of all ages. I know it took me completely by surprise and I thought I was prepared, although I hadn't read the book.
John (Owen Wilson) and Jenny (Jennifer Aniston) are happily married journalists who, like a lot of young couples, decide to start their family off with a dog. But Marley, named after Bob, is not your average yellow Labrador. No, Marley is actually a four-legged eating machine. Sofas are a favorite treat of his, but he doesn't mind snacking on drywall when push comes to shove. Marley's hell on paws, but John and Jenny love him.
John and Jenny aren't big into training and by the time they turn to a professional for help Marley's pretty much past the point where he wants to follow any rules. Kicked out of obedience school, Marley continues to misbehave and pretty much control the household.
As Marley grows, so does the Grogan family. Over the years as John and Jenny's brood expands with the addition of three kids, Marley settles into the big brother role – with only occasional streaks of wildness. And as Marley matures into a senior citizen dog the Grogans learn important life lessons from their furry family member.
The Bottom LineMarley & Me may not work for those who've never succumbed to the charms of a dog, but for anyone who has ever had a canine companion this movie's for you. Marley & Me is sweet, has a lot of heart, and best of all it features not only an adorable dog (actually there were nearly 2 dozen dogs used in the film) but also great performances by Marley's two-legged co-stars and a more realistic look at married life than most cinematic offerings. Their fights feel genuine. Their conversations about ordinary marital matters aren't forced, and Aniston and Wilson are totally believable as a married team facing life's ups and downs. It's one of the best portrayals of an average married couple I've seen in a decade.
Marley & Me grabs you from the opening moments and never lets go. Bring a tissue. Scratch that – bring a box of tissues. Marley & Me is a real tearjerker. I honestly believe you'd have to have a heart of stone not to fall in love with Marley & Me.
Marley & Me was directed by David Frankel and is rated PG for thematic material, some suggestive content and language.
Theatrical Release Date: December 25, 2008