"Marley and Me" *** (119 minutes)

Thursday December 18, 2008

"Marley" is a dog whose owner is John Grogan-the "me", played affectionately by Owen Wilson. Judging by the trailers you'd think this is your typical goofy Hollywood dog/pet film. However, the screenplay by talented writers Scott Frank ("The Lookout" , "Out of Sight", & "Minority Report") & Don Roos ("The Opposite of Sex") have taken Grogan's memoirs/novel and fashioned a tale that is much much more. Director David Frankel ("The Devil Wears Prada") has nicely packaged the first 15 years of Grogan's marriage around Marley's chaotic behavior. More a statement on commitment and marriage than a running commentary on owning an out of control animal, the humor tends to be more controlled the further on the film goes, and, no surprise, the tears will well up as you realize that nothing last forever-no matter how light hearted things are presented in the beginning. However, don't think that your emotions will be in total shambles at the end. This isn't an independent film, folks. The real star in this one is Wilson who gives a wonderful performance and the chemistry is just right with Jennifer Aniston throughout. Add in nice supporting roles by veteran actor, Alan Arkin as Wilson's boss, and Eric Dane as Wilson's philandering friend and co-worker and you have a very pleasing mix of good acting, script, and bad-dog. I might mention an interesting cameo by Kathleen Turner who hasn't done a significant live screen role since 1999's "The Virgin Suicides". There is a point in her single scene as a dog trainer that reminded me of her sexy scene with William Hurt in 1981's brilliant "Body Heat"-but in a perversely different way. (I won't spoil it for you here-but keep this in mind after you see it. Times have certainly changed for Ms. Turner.) My main beef is the length. Although 15 years might need a couple of hours to cover, a bit of editing might have tightened the story that goes on a tad longer than it should. However, overall, this is a nice holiday movie to take in-especially if you own a canine!

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