Marley & Me (PG)

Comedy 120 December 25, 2008
By Jim Ridley
Satisfying only to pet-porn junkies whose tear ducts can’t even withstand a 365 Ferrets a Year calendar, the movie version of John Grogan’s bestselling memoir lacks a crucial ingredient: any sense of what made its hero, a warm and fuzzy Terminator of a Labrador retriever, different from every other table-smashing, necklace-swallowing dogzilla on earth. Played in this canine I’m Not There by a succession of impostors at various stages of life, Marley never develops a personality beyond generic mutt-goes-nuts antics—and without that crucial spark of soul, all director David Frankel (The Devil Wears Prada) delivers is a Beethoven movie with less shedding. Instead, the career changes, family crises, and midlife moping of human leads Owen Wilson and Jennifer Aniston relegate Marley to a lifestyle accessory in his own biopic. (That’s OK, buddy—a pet skunk gets more attention here than Wilson and Aniston’s three kids.) Apart from Aniston’s sick anticipation of a sonogram reading (a moment that belongs in another, better movie) and a depiction of postpartum stress close enough for Advil, Marley & Me proves how lifeless Lady and the Tramp would have been if told from the p.o.v. of “Jim Dear” and “Darling.” Even so, by the time Marley goes off-leash to that great dog beach in the sky, you can bet there won’t be a dry rug in the house.
David Frankel Jennifer Aniston, Owen Wilson, Almudena Alcazar, Ana Ayora, Haley Bennett, Robert Bizik, Anthony C. Brown, Johann Benét, Eric Ditman, Richard Graves John Grogan Gil Netter, Karen Rosenfelt 20th Century Fox

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