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Movies Review

Marley & Me

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Marley & Me
Released on Friday, Mar 6 2009

Director: David Frankel
Screenwriters: Scott Frank, Don Roos
Starring: Jennifer Aniston, Owen Wilson, Eric Dane, Alan Arkin
Running Time: 116 mins
Certificate: PG

Dogs and movies are not always the best bedfellows. For every Turner And Hooch and Old Yeller there's a mucky-pawed Beverley Hill Chihuahua or Hotel For Dogs to go and ruin things. Hollywood's fascination with turning household dogs into adventurous and comic heroes usually results in morphing the cute canines into unbelievable and unpleasant mutts. Marley & Me is a refreshing antidote to such pooch projects, managing to avoid the follies of talking animals and unnecessary cutesiness. Instead, it provides a genuinely heart-warming everyday tale of one average American family and their uncontrollable, irrepressible pet.

John (Wilson) and Jenny (Aniston) Grogan are two impossibly happy newlyweds who have just moved to West Palm Beach, Florida to boost their careers as journalists. With everything in their lives running smoothly, John's best pal and dashing ladies' man Sebastian (Dane) warns the writer that it won't be long before he starts hearing the pitter-patter of tiny feet. After expressing concern about settling down with children, John is advised by his mate to put off the inevitable by buying his wife a dog. "You walk 'em, you feed 'em, you let 'em out now and then. There's nothing to it," claims Seb. However, when Jen and John end up adopting a 12 pound yellow Labrador, their perfect lives are thrown into relative chaos.

Admittedly the story does sounds pretty flaky for a near two-hour movie, but this real-life tale of traditional American life with man's best friend is surprisingly moving and generous with the laughs. Aniston and Wilson are working well within their comfort zones, but they at least manage to create believable lovers. The bumbling John Grogan, who has the gorgeous wife, dream job and perfect home, could easily have been a turn-off, but Wilson's wise-cracking charms are switched on full notch. Likewise, Aniston's super hack-turned-housewife may have come across as whiny, but she's still got that underlying Rachel Green likeability that she brings to nearly all her film roles, to bring her through. Alan Arkin, who play's John's boss at the South Florida Sun-Sentinel must also get a mention. He steals the few scenes he's in and brings some classy deadpan humour to a film that's only ever one step away from turning into a Disney schmaltz-fest.

However, Marley & Me is not a film that's really anything to do with actors or actresses. It's all about the dog. The audience watches the pooch grow from a restless, trouble-making puppy into a restless, trouble-making family pet and when the inevitable ending arrives, it's nigh on impossible for any animal lover to hide the tears. It's about as deep as a philosophy lecture from Victoria Beckham, and Frankel has a habit of layering up the sentimentality, but you'd have to be quite the curmudgeon to sneer at the animal's final scenes. Despite being played by dozens of dogs, Marley is wholly convincing and the animal trainers deserve credit for several complex slapstick scenes, which can't have been easy to orchestrate.

Any film that features REM's 'Shiny Happy People' with scenes of sunny Florida beaches without a hint of irony is going to annoy a certain type of filmgoer. But, for those who occasionally enjoy their movies to be as soft as an Andrex puppy and as challenging as a Beano crossword puzzle, then Marley & Me should be an ideal fit. Three things are certain; Labrador sales will soar, box office receipts will be bulging and anyone who's ever loved or lost a pet will shed some tears by the closing credits.


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