"MARLEY & ME"
DVD Review
by Kevin Carr


    MOVIE: **** (out of 5 stars)
    DVD EXPERIENCE: **** (out of 5 stars)

    STARRING
    Owen Wilson as JOHN GROGAN
    Jennifer Aniston as JENNIFER GROGAN
    Eric Dane as SEBASTIAN
    Kathleen Turner as MS. KORNBLUT
    Alan Arkin as ARNIE KLEIN

    Rated PG
    Studio: 20th Century Fox

    Directed by: David Frankel

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WHAT IT’S ABOUT
Based on the best-selling book, “Marley and Me” tells the story of newspaper writer John Grogan (Owen Wilson) and his rambunctious dog Marley. After moving to Miami, Grogan gets a job at the big newspaper, and to prove to his wife that he can settle down with kids, he gets a dog. This cute yellow lab turns out to be the worst dog in the world, destroying his house and possessions and alienating the family from the local dog park.

However, over the years, Marley the yellow lab becomes a member of the family. He may be misbehaved, but he showers the family with unconditional love, and he is a part of their home. The film follows the life and times of Marley as he sees his humans through their own ups and downs.

WHAT I LIKED
I have been a dog lover for yeas, and any dog lover is going to find a lot to love about “Marley & Me.” While Owen Wilson and Jennifer Aniston are the Hollywood stars of this film, the real star – and scene stealer – is the character of Marley. Why else did we see ten-foot-tall golden Labrador standees in theaters around the country this past holiday season?

Although the Grogans don’t come across as the most competent dog owners on the planet, often letting Marley run roughshod over them and their home, there is no doubt that they love the pet. A disciplined dog owner will see plenty of reasons why Marley is the “worst dog,” and the blame falls on the Grogans and their own training methods. So even when the dog misbehaves, I felt a sympathy for him as a character.

The film’s plot is not terribly complex. It walks the viewer through the entire life of the dog, but that’s what made the movie so pure and enjoyable. Anyone who has owned dogs has been through these ups and downs. We’ve seen our own dogs when they are well behaved, and we’ve seen them at their worst. And, unfortunately, we’ve all seen them at the end of their lives.

“Marley & Me” is a film about truth, a film that reveals the reality of dog ownership. It’s a heartwarming movie and one that touched my heart, no matter how deliberate it was in pulling my emotional strings.

WHAT I DIDN’T LIKE
I will say that I did get discouraged a bit watching the Grogans deal with their own self-made dog problems. The character of John Grogan often blames Marley for his problems, even though it’s clear that Marley is a product of his own environment. If the Grogans had employed better training techniques early on, a lot of the problems could have been avoided. Of course, if that were the case, I suppose we’d lose a lot of the comedy as well, so in the long run, it’s a good thing their training skills were sub-par.

I just hope that other sub-par dog owners don’t see this film as a validation of how they raise their dogs when the dogs misbehave. (Okay, I’ll get off my soap box now.)

DVD FEATURES
While there is a double-disc edition available (which was not made available for my review), the single-disc edition has plenty of special features to enjoy. In addition to a half-hour of deleted scenes and a gag reel, there’s multiple featurettes about the production. “Finding Marley” tells the story of casting the more than dozen dogs used in the film. “Breaking the Golden Rule” focuses on the challenges of working with animals on a movie set. “On Set with Marley: Dogs of All Trades” shows the different specializations the dogs that play Marley were used for.

My favorite production featurette is “When Not to Pee,” which explains how a key moment of the film was “improvised” by the dog actor, and the moment had to be painstakingly recreated because the trainer popped into gram.

In addition to the featurettes, there’s a featurette on animal adoption that urges potential pet owners to consider saving a dog over buying a dog. There’s also the Video Contest Finalists and Video Hall of Fame sponsored by Purina Dog Chow, which highlights goofy dogs from around the country, a must see for true dog lovers.

WHO’S GOING TO LIKE THIS MOVIE
Dog people. (Cat people will want to skip this one.)

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