Based on newspaper columnist John Grogan’s best selling book about his life, Marley & Me is a winning story of a married couple who wind up owning one of the most undisciplined destructive canines imaginable. While I can’t speak for non-dog lovers, I found Marley & Me to be an entertaining and moving movie that should pull in sizeable loot at the box-office. The story follows newlyweds John (Owen Wilson) and Jenny (Jennifer Aniston) Grogan who pick out the seemingly adorable Marley from a pen of lab puppies at a discount price. As it turns out, it’s far from a steal.
From the get go it’s apparent that the dog is untrainable as he proceeds to maul, chew and stampede everything in his sight. Marley disobeying a dog trainer (Kathleen Turner, looking less than flattering) and doing his business on the beach are two of the movie’s funnier moments. Still, John and Jenny embrace him as they eventually start to build a family. As time goes by, John and Jenny change jobs, have more kids and move to new places. All while Marley remains a constant fixture in their lives – they love him despite his incorrigible behavior. While his actions continue to be frustrating and somewhat destructive he never the less remains a likeable lug.
Despite the way the film has been marketed, Marley is not always the story’s sole center of attention. Great detail goes into the Grogan’s relationship and John’s work life. This is handled in a fairly realistic way, showing the ups and downs of life and the chemistry between the two leads, which is really good. Owen Wilson is easily one of the most likable personalities in movies today and his casting is a big reason why this film works as well as it does. Alan Arkin, who plays Grogan’s eternally dry but highly likeable editor and Eric Dane (Grey’s Anatomy), who plays John’s journalist buddy, also add a lot to the film. Movies like Marley & Me will always have their distracters, with some crying emotional manipulation but I disagree! While the last 20 minutes is a true tear jerker, it certainly rings true. I, like so many others, have lost a dog and the movie ending is the way it usually plays out. While movies can stimulate many emotions like happiness and laughter, sadness is also a necessary outlet and healthy to explore. The film deals with that issue in an honest way as it explores the reality of Marley in his later years and his passing. I believe a good cry is a healthy thing and I never felt manipulated in the least. While parents might want to keep very young kids away (personally I don’t think they should), Marley & Me was an interesting journey well worth taking. While not a great film, it is a solid one that I was totally involved in and touched by. I certainly recommend it. 3.5 Zombies out of 5.