Thursday, December 18, 2008

Review: Marley and Me

Directed by David Frankel

Marley and Me strikes me as the first real Gen-X family tearjerker, even if it was based on a Boomer's book. Said Boomer, John Grogan, and his wife put off marriage and children long enough into their relationship they ought to qualify as honorary Gen-Xers, and besides, the first identifiable pop song heard is R.E.M.'s "Shiny Happy People." Finally, the Marley in the title symbolizes all those messy, uncontrollable factors that make so many Gen-Xers so risk averse. Works for me.

If it weren't based on Grogan's memoir, I'd say the dog in Marley and Me was a brilliant device for getting people into a movie about things that one imagines would bore the crap out of today's hip producers and even hipper audiences.

"So this guy, he marries this chick who is totally out of his league, then they move to sunny Florida, where he writes a regular column for the local newspaper, but he wants to be the next Jack Anderson. He gets a little jealous when he sees his single friend get hot women and even hotter stories, but doesn’t get crazy resentful or anything, he just enjoys his family, and tries to be a supportive husband and good dad, good provider. He gets his chance, and they move to Philadelphia where he starts out in hard news, but ends up writing columns again because he’s so good at it. He's got a great family.”

And it's all really, really, true.

Zzzzzzzzzz ....

But wait! We can get Owen Wilson and Jennifer Aniston ...

Zzzzzzzzzz ....

But wait! There's this crazy, unpredictable, cute stunt dog!

Eh?

Center the story around that dog and his hijinks, and how he intrinsically affects the family that surrounds him, and the snoozer turns into a thoroughly enjoyable feel-good movie more than capable of keeping viewers awake in their seats.

We never meet or even hear Grogan’s parents spoken of. Instead, he's mentored by his editor. In between handing out assignments, Alan Arkin gives Owen Wilson all the practical advice on family and relationships that 1960s parents rejected in favor of “do your own thing,” and some of it turns out to be pretty good.

To get some idea of the real Marley, check out the first 30 seconds of this YouTube video:

He was truly a monster of a dog, and the animals that stood in for Marley, in this film, deserves an Oscar every bit as much as that horse in Cat Ballou.

Wilson and Aniston are well cast and have terrific chemistry. I had no trouble believing in them as a couple. Kathleen Turner shows up in a cameo that’s shocking if you were unaware of the Body Heat actress’s health issues and refusal to be a typical Hollywood actress and go under the knife at 53. She looks ... like a normal person. And somehow, that's perfect because at it's heart, Marley and Me is about how normalcy is something you obtain by accepting and dealing with uncontrollable messes.

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Anny said...
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