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.