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Blu-ray Review: Marley & Me

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The Film

I’ve never read the bestselling 2005 book (Marley & Me: Life and Love with the World's Worst Dog) on which the film Marley & Me is based, but I’m thinking it’s a safe bet that nearly all of the emotional impact has been neatly scrubbed away for the exceedingly dull film adaptation with Owen Wilson and Jennifer Aniston.

John Grogan, columnist for both the South Florida Sun-Sentinel and the Philadelphia Inquirer, reported receiving a record amount of reader response for his final column about Marley, the “world’s worst” dog, but it’s hard to imagine the same kind of reaction to the film, which musters up very few interesting ideas across its poorly paced two hours.

John (Wilson) and his wife Jennifer (Aniston) decide to beat the cold by moving from Michigan to Florida after getting married. Both are reporters, but she’s clearly the better of the two, landing a job at the Miami Herald, while John gets on at the Sun-Sentinel. He fancies himself a hard news reporter, and is jealous of colleague Sebastian’s (Eric Dane) plum freelance assignments for the New York Times, but reluctantly takes on a slice-of-life column position at editor Arnie Klein’s (Alan Arkin) insistence.

To complete the lifestyle change, the couple buys a dog: Marley, a yellow lab who’s the runt of the litter and a ticking time bomb of disaster. Sure, he’s cute, but they soon discover he has an appetite for chaos. He fails obedience school, despite the iron-fisted trainer running it (a weary looking Kathleen Turner) and he takes every chance to indiscriminately destroy the household around him.

John and Jennifer discuss getting rid of him, but it’s clear he’s become a part of the family, and he’s right there along with them for the life-changing moves and birth of children over the next decade.

Marley & Me can’t spend an entire two hours on dog hijinks alone, leaving it to fill in the gaps with ill-conceived attempts at humor (a squeaky bed in the old hotel where John and Jen are trying to having sex) and dramatic elements that the actors really aren’t up for (lots of fairly serious arguments between the Grogans over the years). Arkin’s small part is useful for injecting some much-needed non-dog humor, but the laughs are few and far between and the drama feels tired.

It’s a good-natured film for the most part, and anyone who loves dogs isn’t going to be entirely disappointed, but Marley & Me lacks a dynamic element that even a rambunctious dog can’t make up for. I will give the film credit for its effective ending that’s obviously designed to yank the heartstrings, but isn’t too maudlin, and almost all pet owners will identify with. I didn't care about the characters by this point, but the situation was so universal, it had some impact. That's not enough, but it helped me feel like my past two hours hadn’t been entirely wasted.

The Blu-ray Disc

Marley & Me is presented in 1080p high definition with an aspect ratio of 2.35:1. The film’s slick Hollywood sensibility has been faithfully reproduced here in a visual presentation that has little to be complained about. Colors, blacks, and skin tones are all crisp and distinct, and picture sharpness looks good throughout, if a little on the soft side in some scenes. The only real standout scenes are those on the Miami beaches where a plethora of colors are presented and really pop.

The audio is presented Dolby DTS-HD, which is, as expected, more than adequate for this dialogue-centric film. Flashes of ambient sound, the peppy score, and the dialogue are all nice and distinct in this clear mix.

Special Features

Marley & Me comes as a three disc set in the Blu-ray format, with one disc being a digital copy and another the DVD version as Fox follows Disney’s lead. Much of the special features are in high-def, which is nice, but don’t expect to find much to like if the film didn’t do it for you.

Nearly a half-hour of deleted scenes is included, and these are mostly extended versions of stuff already in the film. Rather dull, they come with optional director commentary. Four short featurettes focus on different aspects of the film, and are all total fluff, but there is some interesting material about the vast number of dogs used to play Marley. Rounding out the disc are short films from a Purina contest and a short gag reel.

The Bottom Line

Marley & Me is a rent-first type of movie, but if it’s your thing, the Blu-ray package is a nice way to go.

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About Dusty Somers

Dusty Somers is a Seattle-based editor and writer. He is a member of the Online Film Critics Society and Seattle Theater Writers.