3 January 2009 | jantoniou
Charming, thoughtful - probably not what you'd expect
Though I wasn't quite sure what to expect with "Marley and Me", I admit I basically expected it to be a slightly goofy slapstick type comedy centered around a high-strung pooch. I was thinking "Beethoven" just replace the St. Bernard with a Labrador.
With "A-list" players like Jennifer Aniston and Owen Wilson involved, however, I should have known better.
This is an actual movie - a real story about real life and the dog that runs through it (literally and figuratively).
The basic story follows Wilson and Aniston as journalists who embark upon their lives as a married couple. Marley comes early on as the puppy no one wants and the marginally insane high-strung pooch who appears throughout to be virtually untrainable (don't tell that to that "It's Me or the Dog" gal). Shredding cushions, destroying floors and walls and most everything in between seems to never quite drive them completely mad. Instead of taking him to the pound they soldier through and love their dog and of course he faithfully loves them in return. Like a child, a pet is not someone you just give up on because they are hard to take care of.
Children - three, ultimately - come into their lives and John's (Wilson) career continues to advance as he carves a niche as a local columnist. They ultimately move from Florida to Pennsylvania. Even as the marriage has its ups and downs, as Jen (Aniston, sans a character name change) gives up her career to be a mom, as kids are born and grow older, as John struggles with his own career direction Marley remains the constant, always a little crazy, always infusing his peculiar personality into the family dynamic.
This is a "family movie" in the truest sense - that is, that it is about family, about the reality of being a father, a husband, a wife, a mother, and the obligations and dreams and ambitions we have and often let go for the sake of the greater purpose of raising our children. It is about uncomfortable and often painful sacrifices of our own vision of the future for ourselves and our family. It is about what we give up to ultimately gain far more.
Marley in his own way represents that sacrifice - a pet probably not many would take on and keep and engenders a huge challenge to persist in loving and caring for. Therein is a lesson in how to raise kids and how to love each other even when we don't much feel like it.
For all its fine, thoughtful, and charming qualities "Marley and Me" is not 100% a family movie - there's some swearing (not much - perhaps 5 or 6 times, all relatively tame) and some sexual innuendo but nothing overt. In the end I think it finds a pretty reasonable balance between trying to be a movie that appeals to adults and yet it doesn't kowtow to children either. The dialog and the acting are excellent (Jennifer Aniston is especially good) and whatever Owen does is understated and funny yet he also does serious when he needs to.
In any case this is a fine movie that most adults will enjoy for a real character-driven "dramedy" (mostly drama, less comedy) and kids say 7 and older will be able to catch most of the finer elements of the script.