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Marmaduke: Blu-ray & DVD Combo Pack Review

Marmaduke movie poster Marmaduke

Theatrical Release: June 4, 2010 / Running Time: 88 Minutes / Rating: PG / Songs List

Director: Tom Dey / Writers: Tim Rasmussen, Vince Di Meglio (screenplay); Brad Anderson, Phil Leeming (comic strip creators)

Voice Cast: Owen Wilson (Marmaduke), Emma Stone (Mazie), George Lopez (Carlos), Christopher Mintz-Plasse (Giuseppe), Steve Coogan (Raisin), Fergie (Jezebel), Kiefer Sutherland (Bosco), Daymon Wayans Jr. (Thunder), Marlon Wayans (Lightning), Sam Elliott (Chupadogra/Buster) / Cast: Lee Pace (Phil Winslow), Judy Greer (Debbie Winslow), Caroline Sunshine (Barbara Winslow), Finley Jacobsen (Brian Winslow), Mandy & Milana Haines (Sarah Winslow), David Walliams (Anton Harrison), William H. Macy (Don Twombly), Glen McCuen (Bodie), Graylen Cameron (Giant Teenage Boy), Alex Rockhill (Dog Catcher)

Buy Marmaduke from Amazon.com: Blu-ray + DVD DVD
 

and Kelvin Cedeno

Over the last several years, 20th Century Fox has been right up there with Walt Disney Pictures as a leading provider of family films. The two studios have clearly been taking notes on each other's successes. Fox's Ben Stiller mega-hit Night at the Museum begat Disney's less profitable Adam Sandler vehicle Bedtime Stories. On the heels of Alvin and the Chipmunks came the Mouse's own computer-animated rodent comedy G-Force (again, the weaker performer).
Following The Game Plan, Fox came up with its own broad movie to star Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson in the Disney-esque Tooth Fairy (seemingly cut from the same cloth as Tim Allen's The Santa Clause sequels). The latest project smacking of competitive inspiration is Marmaduke, arriving in the wake of Disney's lucrative talking dog movies like Beverly Hills Chihuahua and the Buddies franchise.

Of course, the source of Marmaduke predates contemporary canine comedies by quite a bit. This 2010 film is adapted from the newspaper comic strip of the same name, created in 1954 by Brad Anderson and Phil Leeming. The single-panel production continues to appear on a daily basis with Anderson still writing and illustrating them at age 86. Despite remaining in circulation for over half a century, the Marmaduke of print isn't quite the sacred entity that, say, fellow 1950s United Media invention Peanuts is. Sure, readers have successfully protested cancellation attempts over the years. But the strip remains something of a laughingstock among critics and the Internet.

Naturally, Fox's filming is less interested in being true to the Anderson's quaint work than in entertaining the masses with the kind of chatty irreverence that drew crowds to Chihuahua and Chipmunks. Would there otherwise be such a summer movie in 2010?

Addressing the camera with the voice of Owen Wilson, Marmaduke the 200-pound Great Dane bears little resemblance to his long-tolerated comic strip self.

The main item surviving the leap from the funny pages to the silver screen is the strip's image of a large dog and his family. Marmaduke is one huge Great Dane, over 200 pounds of fun-loving party animal. The dog is voiced by Owen Wilson, somehow logically cast after starring in Fox's last big dog hit, Marley & Me. In a design implemented more awkwardly than Garfield, Marmaduke talks almost non-stop here and he understands humans, but (except for us) they can't hear him.

When patriarch Phil Winslow ("Pushing Daisies" star Lee Pace) gets a marketing director position at an organic pet food company, he moves the entire family from Kansas to Orange County, California. There are a few objections from wife Debbie (Judy Greer) and eldest daughter Barbara (Caroline Sunshine), but a couple of California pop songs drown them out and soon everybody is okay with the lush new pad and the sunny new neighborhood.

Most of our time is spent with Marmaduke as he adjusts to West Coast living primarily at the dog park. Though it's described "like high school for dogs" full of cliques, our interest rests strictly with the divide between the haves (the pedigrees) and the have-nots (the mutts). Marmaduke falls in with the latter group, befriending a sweet Australian Shepherd named Mazie (voiced by Emma Stone) and her tiny pals,
Raisin (Steve Coogan) and the fearful Giuseppe (Christopher Mintz-Plasse). They're sort of fun, but Marmaduke gets upgraded after a staged scaring of his best friend and housemate cat Carlos (George Lopez) and winning a dog surfing contest. Next thing you know, the Great Dane is making time with Jezebel the well-groomed Collie (The Black Eyed Peas' Fergie), to the dismay of mean alpha dog Bosco (Kiefer Sutherland) and Marmaduke's abandoned mutt friends. Gee, I wonder if there's a moral somewhere in there.

In addition to keeping tabs on Phil's career progress with his driven, eccentric boss (Academy Award nominee William H. Macy), we also spend enough time with the Winslows to spot rank standard-issue subplots involving the kids; middle child Brian (Finley Jacobsen) secretly is just not that into soccer while Barbara is into surfer boy Bodie (Glenn McCuen) who earns the nickname "Hasselhoff."

Marmaduke gets cozy with Jezebel the Collie on the dog park rock once reserved for purebreds like her. As owner Phil Winslow, Lee Pace loses the Hitler 'stache of the Marmaduke comic strip while trying to please his new boss (William H. Macy).

Though there are only two screenwriters credited on Marmaduke (License to Wed team Tim Rasmussen and Vince Di Meglio), that feels about two too many on something that could have been written in the time it takes to walk a dog. There really isn't a clever idea to be found here. The only thing that makes the painfully unfunny early material seem halfway decent is the overdramatic climax that is so not needed. To be guilty of the same overfamiliarity the film indulges in, let me point out that too much of the comedy relies on bodily function gags. (Has there even been something with too little bathroom humor?) Repeatedly, peeing and farting are the jokes; such lowest denominator laugh-fishing lives up to one's worst expectations of crudeness without the slightest shred of wit. As such, it's almost a relief when it's a bee and not something more excretory that gets Marmaduke so worked up.

As if all this weren't enough, the film is visually quite lacking. The effects were handled by much of the same team that did the Chipmunks movies, but clearly their work is easier to take when it's implementing artificial characters into a real world. Animating the faces and mouths of real dogs just doesn't look right, even when you're watching it for an extended period of time. Furthermore, more challenging visual effects are shockingly poor.

Some viewers may find it a bit racialist that they always have to make a black dog (like Bosco the Beauceron) be the villain. Here's one you've never heard before: while rising in status, Marmaduke seems to forget the little dogs that appreciated him before, namely dog park outcasts Giuseppe, Raisin, and Mazie.

It is surprising how utterly bad Marmaduke is. An undertaking of this sort requires so much time and input that failure to this degree is inexcusable. Practically everyone in the cast, even George Lopez, has proven they're capable of entertaining and yet none of that comes through here.
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I honestly believe that putting the actors on all fours in dog costumes would have made this a much more enjoyable experience.

Cynics claim that bad movies make a lot of money and while they sometimes do (did civilization really need to spend $836 million seeing a second Transformers movie?), this one didn't. Evidently, there weren't many to notice that this wasn't their grandfather's Marmaduke. Winding down, the film has grossed $33.6 million stateside and a little more than that overseas. While the $50 million production budget was low enough to make its tanking seem minor compared to other summer flops, Marmaduke cannot be construed as anything but a humbling, unprofitable outing. It's tough to convey just how poorly the flick performed given its choice timing and 3,200-theater distribution. Among dog comedies, its numbers were comparable to the forgettable Good Boy! and See Spot Run if you ignore 7-9 years of steep ticket inflation.

Fox seemed to recognize the film's embarrassing box office display by bringing it to DVD and Blu-ray less than three months after its June theatrical debut. Our review covers the Blu-ray + DVD Combo Pack, a must for family films and, as a case sticker proclaims, a "super-sized $70 value." Imagine if the standard digital copy had been included!

Buy Marmaduke: Blu-ray + DVD Combo Pack from Amazon.com Blu-ray & DVD Details

BD: 2.35:1 Widescreen; DVD: 2.35:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
BD: DTS-HD 5.1 (English), Dolby Digital 5.1 (Spanish, French, Portuguese)
DVD: Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English), Dolby Surround (Spanish, French)
Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish; BD-only: Portuguese, Cantonese, Mandarin
Not Closed Captioned; Extras Not Subtitled or Captioned
Release Date: August 31, 2010
Suggested Retail Price: $39.99
Two single-sided discs (1 BD-50 & 1 DVD-9)
Eco-Friendly Blue Keepcase
Also available in Standalone DVD ($29.98 SRP)

VIDEO and AUDIO

One place Marmaduke can't be faulted in is its DVD presentation. The 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer is sharp, vibrant, and immaculately clean. The movie may not be much to look at, but its bright outdoor photography is everything it's intended to be visually. The Dolby 5.1 soundtrack also does not disappoint. Though front-oriented, the mix has some depth to it and the voiceover parts blend comfortably with their surroundings.

For the most part, Marmaduke looks solid in the Blu-ray's 2.40:1 presentation. Contrast and color saturation are noticeably pumped up, making the image almost blinding at times and causing the occasional blown out white. This seems to be a source-related issue not a transfer problem, and as long this image preserves filmmaker intent, then it's a success. Sharpness and cleanliness are expectedly strong for a recent film. It's a nice-looking transfer and probably a very accurate one, too, even if a little exaggerated.

The DTS-HD 5.1 track is a lot more active than a film of this genre would suggest. To match the heightened color palette of the picture, sound seems to have been mixed stylistically. Sound effects are embellished for comedic effect and pack in a few strong punches. Ambience is mixed throughout the surrounds for a full and convincing effect. Dialogue remains pretty centered and doesn't play with direction the way other elements do, but it comes across cleanly and intelligibly to the point of making the voice acting stand out more than usual. Music sounds fine and even and remains fairly broad.

We learn the origin of Marmaduke's name in this brief deleted Winslow family Christmas clip featuring Barbara (Caroline Sunshine) and Brian (Finley Jacobsen). How do you get a dog to surf? With lots of green screen, "Cowabarka!" reveals.

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS and PACKAGING

The DVD's light supply of extras begins with three short deleted scenes (2:00) that present the dogs without facial animation. One shows Marmaduke's old Kansas gang the "Three Dogmigos", another has him chatting up a California pug at a stoplight, and the third reveals how he got his name.

The featurette "Cowabarka!" (5:15) details the process of filming the dog surfing contest. Trainers and crew members discuss the challenges of getting dogs comfortable with water, and extreme surfer Scott Chandler extols the pastime.

This fluffy cat auditions (unsuccessfully) for Carlos, the one feline part in the film in "Canine Casting." Marmaduke pops his head out the sunroof in the DVD's main menu. Having already voiced a red car, this time Owen Wilson takes the dog.

As you might have guessed, "Canine Casting" (2:45) shows us some of the dog audition process.
This could be interesting or at least fun to see, but the brief footage loses value with the addition of jokey commentary.

Finally, we get the movie's theatrical trailer (2:12). It's nice that Fox is providing these again. There's no good reason not to.

To these paltry offerings, the Blu-ray adds three exclusives, all in HD.

"Puppy Marmaduke and Kitty Carlos: Home Movies" (3:27) shows footage of the two pets meeting as babies. It's noticeably more gentle and less bombastic than anything in the movie, probably since the characters aren't voiced. Unconvincingly creating the illusion that he's filming this, young actor Finley Jacobsen's stiff narration unfortunately does more harm than good.

Next comes the surprisingly tame gag reel "Marmaduke Mayhem!" (2:40). Animals are notoriously difficult actors, but there aren't very many shenanigans here from George and Spirit, the canines portraying the lead character. Most of the flubs are the garden variety type; human actors messing up lines.

Finally, Blu-ray offers five additional deleted scenes (7:28). No better or worse than what's in the movie, these are mostly isolated gags that would either begin or end existing scenes, although barely-seen David Walliams' extended dog trainer scenes do go on too long.

The DVD opens with promos for Fox digital copies, Marley & Me: The Terrible 2's, and Space Chimps 2: Zartog Strikes Back. From the Sneak Peek menu, we find additional ads for Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel, Tooth Fairy, Flicka 2, Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief, Diary of a Wimpy Kid, and Fox Family Favorites. The Blu-ray opens with the digital copy, Terrible 2's, Tooth Fairy, and Wimpy Kid promos, with its menu adding Squeakquel and Lightning spots.

The DVD and Blu-ray's main menus deliver sunny dog antics and imagery set to bouncy score. The Blu-ray's pop-up menu selections are designed like bone-shaped name tags. In the Fox tradition, the BD's selections under each heading can only be toggled one at a time in a small window so that the user has no idea how many there are till they've come around to the beginning again.

There are no special touches to the packaging, a standard Blu-ray case that places its disc on opposite, ecologically-cut sides.

Hanging out with his fellow O.C. dog park mutts, Marmaduke plays Dance Dance Revolution, or rather some reasonable facsimile of it. In case you can't tell from the reactions of Phil (Lee Pace) and Debbie Winslow (Judy Greer), Marmaduke has made a stinky in bed.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

Marmaduke truly is as stupid, crass, heartless, and unappealing as you might fear. As a critic, it's a gift to get to something so short on decency and taste that you can rip it with no reservation whatsoever. If this isn't your calling, I can think of two other redeeming features to the film. First, it's short and fast-moving; even with all the technical credits, this barely passes the 88-minute mark (I can't be sure how much my mind racing with criticisms dulled the pain). Secondly, this is one of the rare present-day films to get close to "so bad it's good" territory; if you're amused by just how awful a big family film can be, this may be worth your time.

And now, some fun stats. Thirty-five minutes pass before someone says "Who let the dogs out?" and another sixteen before it is repeated. We have to wait forty-two minutes until hearing "Marmapuke." Sadly, no one makes a "Mamaluke" play on words. If only this had done well enough to merit a sequel, that would have been comic gold from some gangster-type dogs.

More on the Blu-ray + DVD Combo / Buy from Amazon.com / Buy the DVD

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The Cast and Crew of Marmaduke:
Starring Owen Wilson: Marley & Me Cars Night at the Museum Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian Drillbit Taylor
George Lopez: Mr. Troop Mom | Steve Coogan: Mr. Toad's Wild Ride Around the World in 80 Days | Fergie: Nine
Emma Stone: Ghosts of Girlfriends Past | Sam Elliott: Did You Hear About the Morgans? | Kiefer Sutherland: The Wild
Lee Pace: Pushing Daisies: The Complete First Season | Judy Greer: Maneater The TV Set The Cat Returns
William H. Macy: Wild Hogs | Written by Tim Rasmussen and Vince Di Meglio: License to Wed

Marmaduke Songs List (in order of use): Matt Costa - "Mr. Pitiful", Phantom Planet - "California", 2Pac featuring Dr. Dre and Roger Troutman - "California Love", "The Marmaduke Lullaby", Sean Kingston - "Eenie Meenie", Early Earl - "Bounce Back", LP feat. Fuego - "Pick It Up", Weezer - "(If You're Wondering if I Want You To) I Want You To", Marvin Gaye - "Let's Get It On", Sean Kingston - "Fire Burning", Tammy Infusino - "You Got Me Twisted", Salme Dahlstrom - "C'mon Y'all", The Romantics - "What I Like About You"

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Reviewed September 9, 2010.



Text copyright 2010 DVDizzy.com. Screencaps from DVD. Images copyright 2010 Twentieth Century Fox, Regency Enterprises, Davis Entertainment Company,
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