"Marley and Me" is a comedy about a couple who adopts a cute young puppy who grows up to become an unintentionally destructive big dog. What sounds sort of like a comedy from the 80's is, oddly enough, co-written by Oscar-nominated writer Scott Frank ("Get Shorty", "Minority Report") and Don Roos (director of well-regarded indie films such as "The Opposite of Sex"). The picture is based on the book by John Grogan.
The picture stars Owen Wilson and Jennifer Aniston as John and Jennifer, a young couple who find themselves starting fresh in a new city, with a new house and a new puppy, who they name Marley. Despite the puppy's small size, it manages to be surprisingly skilled at causing a huge mess, starting with the smaller task of knocking over the dog food and moving up on the ladder of destruction, wrecking the garage within under an hour.
Yet, the dog is cute, so all is apparently forgiven. However, when the couple take their dog to a trainer (an unrecognizable Kathleen Turner), she isn't so forgiving when the dog gets out of control and boots the pooch out of dog class. The couple doesn't call in reinforcements (the Dog Whisperer, perhaps?), instead accepting that their dog is either really sweet and clumsy or really cute and mean. As for the humans, John is dismayed that he isn't heading around the globe to cover important stories like his pal, Sebastian (Eric Dane).
Yet, when he starts writing about Marley, his column gradually grows a following and he gets in the groove by writing about what he knows. John and Jennifer eventually decide that the time is right to have a family - despite the fact that their dog is a tiny demolition derby. When Jennifer gets upset because the dog is knocking over the kids and tearing up the house, John blames her anger on postpartum depression - not exactly the smartest tactic in the situation.
"Marley and Me" is likely going to appeal to dog owners (being a cat person, I'm not exactly in the target audience), as rather than just a "wacky dog" movie, it manages to focus on how this dog was/is a nightmarish (yet important) part of the lives of the main characters from when it was a puppy onwards. Still, as much of an appeal as the story may have to the target audience, the length goes a bit overboard: this story doesn't need two hours, and a good 15-20 minutes or so would have helped pick up the pace a bit.
The human drama - John's job becomes his focus, leading Jennifer to feel neglected - can also seem a tad bland. To the movie's credit, the majority of it isn't as sappy and manipulative as it could have been, but once the film slides into the last quarter, it does veer pretty strongly into sappiness. While it was marketed as more of a comedy, the picture is more accurately a comedy/drama - which isn't necessarily a bad thing, but the film is probably not something I'd recommend for younger children, despite the PG rating (it will likely be fine for most older kids.)
"Marley and Me" does offer a few fine performances, as Wilson and Aniston are mildly appealing in roles that are a bit dialed-down (although Jennifer Aniston continues to play Jennifer Aniston to at least some degree.) The always reliable Alan Arkin also turns in a great little supporting turn as John's boss.
I wouldn't classify "Marley and Me" as great, but it's a sweet film that manages to get a few laughs and a few emotional moments. Tightening the film down to around 100 minutes probably would have helped quite a bit, but overall, this is a satisfactory effort from director David Frankel ("Devil Wears Prada").
The Blu-Ray 3-disc set includes a Blu-Ray edition of the film, a DVD edition of the film and another disc that houses a digital copy of the film that can be transferred to portable devices or PCs.
VIDEO: "Marley and Me" is presented by Fox on Blu-Ray in 2.35:1 (1080p/AVC). This is a respectable transfer from the studio that has some mild concerns, but otherwise looks just fine. Sharpness and detail were mildly inconsistent; while some scenes looked crisp and well-defined, others could look somewhat soft.
As for concerns, the picture suffered from a few instances of moderate edge enhancement, as well as some minor noise. On a positive note, the print appeared free of marks, specks and other wear. Colors looked warm and rich, with excellent saturation and no smearing or other concerns. Flesh tones also appeared spot-on. The DVD edition that's included in this set offers English/Spanish subtitles.
SOUND: It's "Marley and Me", not "Armageddon". It's no surprise that the DTS-HD 5.1 audio option is pretty tame, with little in the way of surround use. Audio quality was fine, with crisp, well-recorded dialogue . The DVD edition included in this set offers Dolby Digital 5.1 audio, as well as Dolby Surround options in English and Spanish.
EXTRAS: For a movie that I thought could use some trims, apparently there were already quite a few: no less than 19 deleted scenes (HD) are offered (running a little over 25 minutes) with optional commentary from director David Frankel. Frankel provides an excellent discussion of why these scenes were deleted and the story behind them, which makes one wonder why he didn't provide a commentary for the film itself. "Finding Marley" (HD) is a short featurette that discusses working (including "anti-training", where the dogs were encouraged to do everything an owner would usually be upset by) with no less than 22 dogs that played Marley at different stages. "Breaking the Golden Rule" (HD) chats with the actors about working with the animals, "On Set With Marley" (HD) is an interview with the dog (oy vey.) "Animal Adoption" (HD) discusses the realities of adopting a pet. "When Not To Pee" (HD) offers a dog outtake. Finally, we also get a gag reel.
Final Thoughts: I wouldn't classify "Marley and Me" as great, but it's a sweet film that manages to get a few laughs and a few emotional moments. Tightening the film down to around 100 minutes probably would have helped quite a bit. The Blu-Ray edition offers mostly pleasing audio/video quality, as well as a few minor extras.
The Film B-