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MARLEY AND ME, 2008
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MARLEY AND ME
Movie Review
Directed by David Frankel
Starring: Owen Wilson, Jennifer Aniston, Marley the Dog
Review by Matthew Toffolo



SYNOPSIS:

A family learns important life lessons from their adorable, but naughty and neurotic dog.

REVIEW:

I didn't get Marley and Me at all.

Perhaps it's because I am not a big fan of dogs, but I did like the dogs in 101 Dalmations. Those dogs seemed to have a character arc and overall storyline. Therefore I have a choice to like them or not and become emotionally involved in their journey. Marley the dog is a typical annoying dog who I never quite understood why our two main characters liked it. Was it just because Marley served as a great columnist piece for John Grogan, who writes for a newspaper? That's the impression I got, but I'm sure I'm in the minority.

But this all could do with my issues with dogs. Perhaps Marley and Me worked for me because I had to go back to my past and deal with this mess I have for the canine race:

It all started with my best friend and next door nieghbor's dog growing up. Her name was Peppi and she was the ugliest poodle you will ever see. When she was a puppy, Peppi rolled into a neighors grass that was full of poisonous fertilizer which burned all of her hair. So for the rest of her life Peppi had burn marks instead of hair. Imagine having to see something that ugly every single day of your life. I didn't hate it because it was ugly. After all, it's what's inside that counts. But when I was 7 years old Peppi chewed my favorite toy, a GI Joe Destro figure, and I never forgave her for it. I related to Destro and I loved having it around me. Kind of like a girl's (or guy's) teddi bear. Destro was more than a toy for me.

Then there was my cousin's dog Daphne. Daphne was a Dalmation who was spoiled rotten by my mother's sister and her two sons. I remember being forced to sit on the floor while we watched a movie at their house while Daphne got the plush spot on the couch that I wanted to sit on. They loved that dog more than they loved me and I resented them for it. Daphne got the warm cushy couch as I got the cold hard floor.

I got a paper route when I was 12 and there was always this dog on my route that got in my way everyday. One of those adult dogs who was never properly trained. One day it bit me and it hurt like hell. I got over the emotional pain of what dogs did to me, but the physical pain of that bite brought it all back.

Then the worst happened. When I was 13 years old, I was hanging out in a friend's backyard when an argument occurred. We were 13 year old kids dealing with a whole lot of emotional angst as hair was started to grow in strange areas, acne was on our face and we really, really started to like girls. Fights happened between us everyday. We were yelling at each other about something when I jokingly picked up a rock and threw it at my friend. But the rock wasn't just a rock as it was a tombstone for the dog they just buried. His father saw this, came out and threw me into the prickly bushes and kicked me in the stomach twice. A grown man beat me up for at the time I had no idea why. Then I learned what the rock's symbolism was.

That event set off a chain reaction for me and I probably haven't fully recovered from it since. The Dad got off without any charges filed and I was left completely embarrassed and really hurt. All because of a stupid dog's tombstone. Wasn't I, a human being, suppose to be more important than a dog?

Apparently in the movies, dogs are #1. You can kill 1000s of people, but never a dog. I remember watching Independence Day. 4 BILLION people died in a span of 30 seconds, but not the dog of one of the main character's girlfriend. There was a 30 second montage of this dog surviving as the audiences cheered in the cinema. 4 Billion down, one dog up = everyone happy.

So Marley and Me is another one of those movies. But yes, I do admit that I have major issues with dogs.

I remember working on a film back in the fall of 2001 where they were shooting in a park for a few days. During the shoot, I remember walking over to a spot in a park where there was a big open field. A man was playing catch with a dog and I always remember to the day I die the look on this man's face. He loved this dog so much and seemed so content with his life. Man and dog were in the middle of a field being one with the world. It was then that I started to ponder if I was missing out on something.

That moment I observed is what they were trying to pervey in Marley and Me. The connection between a dog and a human. I really get that and I was set to learn and be entertained by this film. But I wasn't because I never got to know Marley. I got to know John and his wife Jenn a whole lot. Two people who live the average life. Marley is suppose to be the uniqueness part of the film. But who is Marley really? He seemed like just a spoiled dog.

Then you start to add things up as we follow John and Jenn from their marriage to having three kids through about 12-14 years. Marley is a dog who will die eventually a lot sooner than the parents and kids. So we're going to get a sad ending. But one of those sad endings that Hollywood loves to have. A manipulative sad ending. And boy did they milk it in Marley and Me. There was really 4 endings in this film as they wanted to push the emotional cords of the audience as long as they possibly could.

This is what you call 'easy tears' in a film. Like I said, you can kill 1000s of people but never a dog. And when you do, there better be a reason. Nothing like seeing an old dog die. The poor kids!

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Marley and Me is a film that I didn't like. Director David Frankel has a bright future ahead of him. He made the terrific 'The Devil Wears Prada' 2 years ago, right after a great run directing TV for HBO. His next film, based on the book Moneyball, is something I'm really looking forward to. But Marley and Me is just an easy film. Man buys dog. Man loves dog, Man loses dog. A cliche filled three act structure.

But what do I know. I'm probably still fucked up emotionally from dogs that I perhaps couldn't appreciate this film for what it is.

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