Rated PG for thematic material, some suggestive content and language, 120 minutes
Familiar, heartwarming formula in the touching, pleasant "Marley & Me"
I become weary of films with cute animals or cute kids, especially those with both cute animals and cute kids. I was very weary of seeing the new movie "Marley & Me," based on the popular semi-autobiographical novel by John Grogan, which tells the story of a neurotic, hyper Labrador Retriever who just might be the worst dog in the world. When you've seen one cute animal or kid in a movie, you've seen them all, but I have to say that Marley and his family had me hooked from the first time I saw him as a pup. "Marley & Me," while relying on familiar sentimental formulas, is heartwarming, touching and funny. Yes, you've seen this before in everything from "Old Yeller" to "My Dog Skip," but go anyway and enjoy a pleasant, crowd-pleasing holiday family movie - just take plenty of tissue with you.
John (Owen Wilson) and Jen (Jennifer Aniston) are a newlywed couple transplanted to Florida in search of a warmer climate and a steady job. Both are journalists and both are able to find work as reporters, though John eventually becomes a daily columnist at the urging of his editor (Alan Arkin). They long to start a family, but before they do, they get a lab puppy and John names him Marley after hearing Bob Marley on the radio on the way home from picking him up. Little do they realize what they're in for as Marley howles, screams and chews up just about everything in sight. He hates storms and must eat three meals a day. John advances in his career and they start a family, while the hyper Marley grows old and becomes a part of their daily lives.
"Marley & Me" is an entertaining, enjoyable holiday film that most of the whole family will enjoy. It's well-acted by its pretty, engaging stars in Wilson and Aniston, both of whom do a believable, above-average job of playing normal, middle-class people with the usual struggles of starting, raising and keeping a family together. It's told against the backdrop of having Marley, who provides most of the fodder for John's columns, which became the basis for his popular book.
David Frankel, who directed "The Devil Wears Prada," helms "Marley & Me" well as it tells the story of the Grogans. However, "Marley & Me" is often too predictable and is overlong, with its last act in particular teetering on the maudlin, when you know what will happen as Marley seems to quickly age. Get your tissues out and ready, you'll need them in abundance, especially as as the family says their goodbyes to their family friend.
Besides "Marley" leads Wilson and Aniston, Kathleen Turner has a nice bit as a dog obedience trainer, and Arkin has some good lines as Wilson's boss, but the real star are all the dogs (22 of them) who play Marley from pup to old man.
"Marley & Me" will especially resonate with those who have or have had beloved pets who became or are still family members. You'll become quickly attached to "Marley & Me" and it will entertain you and your family this holiday season.