I wasn't expecting too much; Marley & Me is advertised as a "dog movie," and while I'm fond of dogs (except when our greyhound Frank does things like trying to eat the presents under the Christmas tree), most dog movies I've seen have been one of two types: silly, noisy, and generally ridiculous, or maudlin and depressing. But I thought this one might be worth a try; it's done much better at the box office than most dog movies, so there might be something to it. I wasn't disappointed. While Marley & Me has its share of crazy and sad moments, it has much, much more, and in overall appeal rises rises far above the pack (no pun intended).
The film is based on a book by reporter/columnist John Grogan. According to the Publishers Weekly review:
Grogan . . . and his wife, Jenny, were newly married and living in West Palm Beach when they decided that owning a dog would give them a foretaste of the parenthood they anticipated. Marley was a sweet, affectionate puppy who grew into a lovably naughty, hyperactive dog. With a light touch, the author details how Marley was kicked out of obedience school after humiliating his instructor (whom Grogan calls Miss Dominatrix) and swallowed an 18-karat solid gold necklace (Grogan describes his gross but hilarious "recovery operation"). With the arrival of children in the family, Marley became so incorrigible that Jenny, stressed out by a new baby, ordered her husband to get rid of him; she eventually recovered her equilibrium and relented. Grogan's chronicle of the adventures parents and children (eventually three) enjoyed with the overly energetic but endearing dog is delivered with great humor. Dog lovers will love this account of Grogan's much loved canine.I haven't read the book yet, but we're headed to the library tomorrow to get it.
I'll try not to give away more plot details than the review above does; just go and see the movie for yourself. Among the things that make it wonderful are its unusual--for Hollywood--emphasis on family values. This is presented gently but clearly; in one scene, John's liberated bachelor friend Sebastian seems almost to be coaxing him to leave Jenny after the two have had a fight, but John just looks at him like he's crazy and assures him that breaking up with her isn't remotely an option. The viewer shares their harrowing and humorous experiences as one child follows another and the parents make some hard decisions about how to balance work and family--and, despite much doubt and some conflict, family wins every time. As it turns out, professional needs are satisfied too, in more rewarding ways than they thought possible. Owen Wilson and Jennifer Anniston give moving, funny, and utterly convincing performances as John and Jenny, which is remarkable since they usually play rather loose, libertine characters (Alan Arkin plays John's delightfully colorful and cantankerous boss). Marley doesn't dominate this film, but his antics serve as a hilarious and touching theme throughout, and he weaves the family together despite all his mischief. The film's conclusion is one of the most moving I've ever seen, a sentiment audibly shared by others in the audience.
If you want to see a movie that's funny, heartwrenching, and wise all at the same time--one that celebrates what's important and most important in life--go see Marley & Me (see some trailers here).
P.S. In your Comments, feel free to mention some of your favorite dog movies!