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11th January
2009
written by brandij

Book
Author: John Grogan
©2005
Harper Collins

Movie
Directed by: David Frankel
Starring: Owen Wilson, Jennifer Aniston
Released: December 25, 2008
Rated: PG

Marley & Me joins the long tradition of oft-read and well-loved dog stories like Ol’ Yeller, Lassie, Rin Tin Tin, and more. In the case of Marley, the overly-friendly yellow Lab isn’t out to save lives, but rather to make them as entertaining as possible. Young couple John and Jenny decide to get a dog (after Jenny kills their houseplant, it’s only natural for her to want to try her hand at raising a puppy), and without the highly recommended research, pick Marley from the first litter they see.

As soon as they get Marley home, the antics start.  He’s playful, especially when it comes to chewing… he’ll chew through nearly anything he can get his mouth around, and a few things they didn’t think he could. His behavior training goes horribly awry, as by sheer size and strength alone he demonstrates that he is the alpha-male of the house.

Marley is full of the type of humor that you’d expect from a rowdy dog story. He steals the 18-carat gold necklace that John gets Jenny, and of course, swallows it. There’s nothing that John can do other than sort through the “output” until the object of his desire appears. He bounds into the family swimming pool and nips at baby diapers.

The film movie condenses the stories into those that can be staged and controlled – namely those that they can get one of the 22 dogs that played Marley can be directed to do. So, of course, there are funny anecdotes that don’t make the cut. Owen Wilson plays a passable John, but the John in the books seems a bit more polished than the uncombed, untucked John that Owen provides. Jenny, played by Jennifer Aniston, doesn’t bond with Marley as deeply as in the book; however, that’s somewhat understandable when you’ve got more 4-legged co-stars than 2-legged.

Speaking of 2-legged co-stars, the film version creates deeper supporting characters than those in the book. Eric Dane plays John’s college buddy Sebastian who babysits Marley briefly when Jenny insists that Marley leave the house. (In the book, John simply spends quite a bit more time with Marley’s training, hoping that Jenny will remember her love for the dog. She does.) Neither do we meat John’s boss in the book (Arnie Klein played by Alan Arkin). Rather the book stays focused on the main character: Marley.

Any pet lover knows that dogs don’t live forever, and in particular, big dogs have a shorter life-span than some of their smaller brethren. It should come as no surprise how the book and film end. Unfortunately, rather than just letting Marley fade into that great dog run in the sky, Grogan details very clearly Marley’s decline and demise. It is in sharp contrast to the happy-humor that has colored the rest of the story, and is uncalled for.

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