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Marley & Me DVD Review (2-Disc Bad Dog Edition)

Marley and Me movie poster Marley & Me

Theatrical Release: December 25, 2008 / Running Time: 115 Minutes / Rating: PG

Director: David Frankel / Writers: Scott Frank, Don Roos (screenplay), John Grogan (book)

Cast: Owen Wilson (John Grogan), Jennifer Aniston (Jennifer Grogan), Eric Dane (Sebastian), Kathleen Turner (Ms. Kornblut), Alan Arkin (Arnie Klein), Nathan Gamble (Patrick - Age 10), Haley Bennett (Lisa), Clarke Peters (Editor), Finley Jacobsen (Conor - Age 8), Lucy Merriam (Colleen - Age 5), Bryce Robinson (Patrick - Age 7), Benjamin Hyland (Conor - Age 5), Sarah O'Kelly (Neighbor Mom), Keith Hudson (Big Guy), Haley Hudson (Debby), Tom Irwin (Dr. Sherman), Alec Mapa (Jorge), Sandy Martin (Lori), Joyce Van Patten (Mrs. Butterly), Clyde (Adult Marley), Jonah (Marley)

Buy Marley & Me from Amazon.com: 2-Disc Bad Dog Edition DVD • 1-Disc DVD • 3-Disc Bad Dog Edition Blu-ray/DVD Combo


By Kelvin Cedeno

Movies about animals usually sell and sell well. Audiences can't seem to get enough of these sorts of films, and Hollywood is more than aware of this. It's true that belonging to this class doesn't guarantee box office gold, but more often than not it proves successful.
What happens, though, when you only have a single animal in your film and he isn't even the main focus? If you're Fox, you relentlessly market that character's scenes to the public so that they think otherwise. Such was the case with Marley & Me, and judging by its impressive gross ($142.6 million domestically), the ad campaign worked.

Based on the non-fictional novel by John Grogan, the story begins on the wedding night of Grogan (Owen Wilson) and his wife Jennifer (Jennifer Aniston). Right away, Jen reveals that she has planned out the rest of her married life step by step. John decides to follow through on those expectations, and the couple moves to South Florida to start a new life together. At the advice of his best friend Sebastian (Eric Dane), John gets Jennifer a puppy for her birthday to delay the step he's dreading the most: children.

You can’t have a film about a dog without some adorable puppies, can you? It's difficult for John (Owen Wilson) and Jennifer (Jennifer Aniston) to expand their family with their current one watching.

Little do they know that their "clearance puppy" is available at such a bargain for a good reason. The yellow Labrador named Marley causes all sorts of mayhem and mischief for the couple, doing everything from digesting household goods to humping strangers. Marley is only the beginning of the Grogans' issues, however. Jennifer still desperately wants a baby despite John's initial misgivings. Once her wish comes true, the balancing act of family, work, and Marley becomes increasingly difficult.

Upon its Christmas 2008 theatrical release, Marley & Me was heavily promoted as a family comedy. This is deceiving in more ways than one. First off, this isn't so much a comedy as it is a dramedy, and even then it leans more towards the dramatic as the story progresses. Secondly, this is a family film, but not in the traditional sense of the word. The "family" label has lately been a marketable way to refer to a "children's film." In actuality, adults will gleam far more out of Marley than children will. Because of the PG rating, it's appropriate for all audiences. There's no swearing or violence, and scenes of the lead couple trying to conceive never get too racy. In that sense, it's a picture that can be seen by the whole family, even if the promotional materials made it seem like the other sort of kids-drag-the-parents "family" feature.

With ads focusing so heavily on the titular pup, though, one would think this is at least a dog film at its heart. It really isn't, at least not to the extent the studio would have audiences believe. The focus is first and foremost on the relationship between John and Jennifer. Marley is merely a springboard for the couple to reflect and grow from. Because of this, the story can be rather dark and mature in its themes. While some parents undoubtedly were in for a rude awakening, the complexities come as a relief to those fearing another Beverly Hills Chihuahua. Physical comedy and antics surely abound, but these are actually underplayed when pinned to the dramatic character arcs. It's never a laugh-out-loud film, instead provoking a variety of other emotions.

Dog trainer Mrs. Kornblut (Kathleen Turner) decides to use John (Owen Wilson) and the off-screen Marley as examples for her tutorial. Jennifer (Jennifer Aniston) and John (Owen Wilson) anxiously wait to see their first child via sonogram.

Everything hinges on the performances of Owen Wilson and Jennifer Aniston. If they fail, the film fails, and not even the charms of a yellow Labrador can save a story that relies so heavily on character development. Thankfully (and unsurprisingly), they deliver. The script requires them to handle both drama and comedy, not to mention a wide emotional range.
Both actors rise to the task and make their characters well-rounded and believable. Marley succeeds largely thanks to them.

Not as polished, though, is the editing. Some leeway needs to be given since the story covers a decade's worth of episodes. That said, it isn't so much how the events are edited together but, rather, how they're edited within themselves. Many scenes don't have a setup or payoff; often feeling like the main middle portion of the situation. Elements and scenarios are brought in and then forgotten, which makes one wonder why they were there to begin with. Given the generous amount of deleted footage discussed later in this review (and Fox's notorious micromanaging), it's likely the filmmakers were pressured to keep the film's running time under two hours.

Marley & Me is a decent film whose heart reigns in truer than other features of this sort. Perhaps the fact that it's based on true events helps prevent it from becoming too manufactured. It may have been falsely advertised and may suffer from awkward editing, but it does well enough to merit a viewing.

Buy Marley & Me: 2-Disc Bad Boy Edition DVD from Amazon.com DVD Details

2.35:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Dolby Digital 5.1 (English),
Dolby Surround (Spanish, French)
Subtitles: English, Spanish, French
Release Date: March 31, 2009
Closed Captioned; Extras Not Subtitled
Two single-sided discs (DVD-9 & DVD-5 DVD-ROM)
Suggested Retail Price: $34.98
Also available in Single-Disc DVD and
3-Disc Blu-ray/DVD Combo
DogToys.com - Toys, Treats and Gifts for your pet

VIDEO and AUDIO

Marley & Me appears in a 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen presentation. Thanks to Fox's distrust of DVD reviewers, the disc received was a single-layered DVD-R ripe with compression artifacts. Therefore, the quality of neither the image nor the Dolby Digital 5.1 surround soundtrack can be properly assessed.

Next-door neighbor Lisa (Haley Bennett) and her chewed-up sneaker feature in one of the many deleted scenes that tie up ends left loose in the final film. Dog trainer Mathilde de Cagny is embraced by her pupil Clyde in "Finding Marley." "Breaking the Golden Rule" features some tantalizingly short sound bites from the real-life Jennifer and John Grogan.

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS and PACKAGING

Marley & Me comes to DVD as a single disc and as a 2-Disc Bad Dog Edition. The supplements for both begin with a whopping 19 deleted scenes (26:17). Some of these extend existing scenes, but most are actually self-contained sequences. Much of what's here would've helped the film flow more smoothly, especially a key scene involving a neighborhood crime.
This footage is accompanied by optional audio commentary by director David Frankel. While Frankel spends a lot of time narrating the on-screen action, he does provide thought-out (if debatable) reasoning for these deletions.

The two-disc-exclusive features start with "Finding Marley" (7:49), which takes a look at the various dogs used to portray the title character. Each one was assigned for a specific role (one for the hyperactive sequences, one for the mellow portions, one for Marley in his later years, etc.). The dog trainers demonstrate some of the tricks each canine can perform, making this both educational and breezy.

"Breaking the Golden Rule" (8:08) is less scintillating. Acting as a sort of promotional "making-of," it features a mix of interviews with the cast (and the real-life Grogans, briefly) about the story. They discuss what aspects of the plot resonated with them, and a lot of praise is given towards the film itself. It's essentially EPK fluff.

A featurette that proves to be even less useful is "On Set with Marley: A Dog of All Trades" (2:37). Here, Marley is interviewed as if he were a human actor, with subtitles translating his barks. Some on-set footage shot by a camera that was strapped to the canine's head seems interesting at first, but goes nowhere in this corny piece.

"Animal Adoption" (5:19) is a mix between a public service announcement and an advertisement for AdoptAPet.com. The pros of purchasing a dog from a rescue shelter over one from a personal breeder are explained, and tips are given for those considering adoption. It's propaganda, but harmless.

Marley (not to be confused with the film Marley) and Daisy demonstrate their branch-carrying talent for Purina Dog Chow. Marley unabashedly lunges for Owen Wilson’s snack in the gag reel. Much to the dismay of his owners, Marley decides car rides are not his cup of tea on the DVD’s main menu.

Perhaps the longest title for any DVD feature, "Purina Dog Chow Marley & Me Video Contest Finalists" (6:05) contains 12 different entries. In each one, the dog in question performs an amusing stunt that wouldn't be so out of place on "The Planet's Funniest Animals." Instead of hearing a laugh track, though, audiences have to endure seeing a bag of Purina Dog Chow after each segment.
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"Purina Dog Chow Video Hall of Fame" (2:07) is more of the same, this time showcasing the winners of the contest.

A gag reel (5:41) consists of the expected flubs and giggles, with a few unexpected dog mishaps along the way. It's not particularly hilarious, but cute. This is the only other feature besides the deleted scenes that appears on both DVD editions.

"When Not to Pee" is a series of outtakes narrated by director David Frankel in which an actual on-set mishap ended up inspiring a comedic moment in the finished film. It's a fun look at the scene, and Frankel's comments are beneficial.

"Trailers" contains ads for Australia, The Pink Panther 2, Fame!, Garfield's Pet Force, Legally Blondes, and Love Takes Wing. Other previews automatically play at the start of the disc for Fox Digital Copies, Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian, Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs, Dr. Dolittle: A Tinsel Town Tail, and Bride Wars. No trailer for Marley & Me is included.

Though the review disc didn't accurately reflect this, the second disc of the Bad Dog Edition will indeed be devoted to a free digital copy of the film.

The main menu features a montage of clips occasionally broken up by footage of Marley (shot for the trailers and TV spots) dragging the images in and out of the screen with his teeth. All submenus are static and silent, featuring publicity photos and canine-related icons like bones and leashes.

John (Owen Wilson) and Marley take a much-needed beach break from the pressures of home. John (Owen Wilson) and Jennifer (Jennifer Aniston) reflect back on their life through his archived newspaper columns.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

Marley & Me provides good entertainment so long as the viewer is willing to take it as it is without any preconceived notions. Even with uneven editing and outrageous antics that don't quite gel with the mostly low-key story, the performances help make it work. Most of the content may go over the heads of children, but it's still good family entertainment overall.

Buy Marley & Me from Amazon.com:
2-Disc DVD / 1-Disc DVD / Blu-ray/DVD Combo / The Book by John Grogan

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Related Reviews:
New to DVD: Beverly Hills Chihuahua • Air Bud (Special Edition) • The Odd Couple (Centennial Collection) • Lilo & Stitch (Big Wave Edition)
Fall-Holiday 2008 Movies: Bolt • Bedtime Stories • Australia (Blu-ray) • Fireproof • City of Ember
Starring Owen Wilson: Drillbit Taylor • Cars • Bottle Rocket (Criterion Collection) | Featuring Eric Dane: Grey's Anatomy: Season Three
Featuring Alan Arkin: The Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause • Get Smart | From Writer Scott Frank: The Lookout
Dogs on Film: Old Yeller & Savage Sam • The Ugly Dachshund • The Biscuit Eater (featuring "Moreover & Me") • Firehouse Dog • Space Buddies

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Reviewed March 23, 2009.



Text copyright 2009 DVDizzy.com. Images copyright 2008 20th Century Fox, Regency Enterprises, and 2009 Fox Home Entertainment. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.