DVD Release Date:  March 31, 2009
Theatrical Release Date:  December 25, 2008
Rating:  PG (for thematic material, some suggestive content and language)
Genre:  Comedy/Drama
Run Time:  116 min.
Director:  David Frankel
Actors:  Owen Wilson, Jennifer Aniston, Eric Dane, Kathleen Turner, Alan Arkin, Nathan Gamble, Haley Bennett

With all the gory details of Jennifer Aniston’s and Owen Wilson’s personal lives splashed on the pages of supermarket tabloids week after week, there’s probably no better way to gain a little audience goodwill than to share the screen with a precocious, yet undeniably adorable, golden retriever. Or better yet, 22 of them, since that’s how many dogs it reportedly required to make the movie.

And make no mistake about it, the puppy that’s named after reggae superstar Bob Marley is the movie’s true star, even if Aniston and Wilson fare pretty well as a married couple enduring the typical ups and downs of life.

But a word to the wise:  Don’t be fooled by the trailers that coyly make Marley & Me out to be some lighthearted tale of canine hijinks. After all, as anyone who has read the book that inspired the movie already knows, this broadly funny story of puppy love is inevitably destined for major tearjerker territory. Think Terms of Endearment or The Notebook with a four-legged friend involved, and you’re definitely on the right track.

Suffice it to say, this mostly family friendly, PG-rated Marley won’t be a cheery Christmas afternoon at the movies with the kids. Well, unless you’re up for buying a few scoops of ice cream to console them afterward. Even without the rambunctious dog, however, the flick offers surprising emotional resonance for adults that you wouldn’t necessarily expect from Wilson and Aniston, given their comedy-heavy Hollywood resumé. While a little, dare-we-say old (Wilson is 40, Aniston is 39) to be entirely believable as a young couple trying to navigate the often shaky waters of new marriage, the tanned, blonde twosome have enough winsome chemistry to help sell the premise. And after their Michigan wedding, John (Wilson) and his new bride Jenny (Aniston) face their first big challenge when they relocate to West Palm Beach, Florida. 

Eventually working as journalists at rival newspapers, John dreams of becoming the next big news reporter like his hot-shot colleague Sebastian (Eric Dane), a failed ambition he wrestles with throughout the movie. But his tough-as-nails editor Arnie (a perfectly cast Alan Arkin in another great supporting role) has other plans and decides that John would make a far better columnist. Offering him the opportunity to pontificate on everyday life twice a week, John begins to find his voice as a writer, even if it’s not exactly how he expected. Armed with plenty of humor and honest banter on life as a newlywed, John admits he’s a little gun-shy about making the leap into fatherhood, which gives Sebastian a great idea. Proposing that he make his transition slowly by getting a dog first, John definitely agrees with Sebastian that it’ll buy him a little time while keeping the missus happy.

Of course, as you’ve probably guessed, what John wasn’t anticipating was the atrocious behavior of the family’s new furry friend. Not only does Marley flunk out of the obedience school that’s run by a crusty curmudgeon (Kathleen Turner in a truly thankless role), but “the world’s worst dog” (as Marley is commonly referred to) tears up everything in sight and quickly proves that John and Jenny may face an uncertain future as parents to actual humans.

Even when they do eventually become Mom and Dad to a brood of three, though, Marley is a constant fixture in John’s and Jenny’s lives. Providing comfort when Jenny suffers a miscarriage early in one pregnancy and boundless laughter when life is becoming too stressful, Marley not only provides constant fodder for John’s column, but the unconditional love that often waxes and wanes with humans.

Unlike many Hollywood movies, Marley & Me also provides a realistic, yet thoroughly praiseworthy endorsement for marriage. Sure, it’s certainly unrealistic when John is offered double his pay when he’s promoted to a columnist (a LOL-worthy moment for any working journalist today), and when life’s true bliss is presented as living a yuppie-like existence in the gorgeous Pennsylvania countryside. But aside from that, John and Jenny have chosen to honor their marriage vows no matter where the journey takes them.  It’s a solid message that underscores the importance of family—with or without a menacing canine in the picture.
 
CAUTIONS:

  • Drugs/Alcohol:  Social drinking.
  • Language/Profanity:  A smattering of your standard-issue profanity, plus a couple of instances where the Lord’s name is taken in vain.
  • Sex/Nudity:  In addition to a couple of jokes of a sexual nature, there are a few flirty moments between husband and wife, plus discussion of miscarriages and pregnancy. There’s also a few ladies sporting some pretty skimpy attire at the beach.
  • Violence:  Nothing that’s not strictly of a comedic nature, and given Marley’s often-destructive nature, these moments are plentiful.

 

Christa Banister is a full-time freelancer writer, specializing in music, movies and books-related reviews and interviews and is the author of two novels, Around the World in 80 Dates and Blessed Are the Meddlers. Based in St. Paul, Minn., she also weighs in on various aspects of pop culture on her personal blog

For more information, including her upcoming book signings and sample chapters of her novels, check out her Website.