Marley & Me goes as most animal flicks – the first few acts are very endearing and funny while the final act is a tearjerker.
John (Owen Wilson) and Jenny (Jennifer Aniston) were only recently married; so to keep the spare bedroom from becoming a nursery, John takes Jenny to pick out a puppy for her birthday. They were chosen by a discount pup but they never thought to ask why he was less expensive than the rest of the litter. It turns out the subsequently named Marley is untrainable. This not-so-minor detail results in a variety of high jinks and some serious tension between the couple, especially after they finally do begin a brood of their own.
The rambunctious Marley is very lovable despite his many disasters. Of course, in real-life, there were 22 dogs portraying Marley. Nonetheless, the tale revolves not just around the pooch but his owner, who is ostensibly John rather than the original gift recipient. The dog often represents John’s restlessness and his devotion to the furry terror is everlasting. Despite the various set changes of K-9s able to perform different tricks, Wilson appears to definitely be a dog-person; as a result, he finds a way to bond with his four-legged co-star.
As noted earlier, although this is not wholly an animal film, it does follow the formula that they are cute even (or especially) when they are causing trouble. The general horror that is Marley is demonstrated in the trailer but there is a lot more – including a cameo with Kathleen Turner as a dog trainer. In the end, when Marley’s grown too old to terrorize the house, the entire tone of the film shifts from energetic to cheerless. The final act is poignant.
The two-disc DVD has a variety of dog-related special features. The “Finding Marley” featurette displays the talents of the many K-9s that portrayed Marley; while “Breaking the Golden Rule” gives the human perspective of working with the dogs. “Dog of All Trades” is a skit with a talking Marley on his own directorial debut and “When Not to Pee” is the result of one of the few doggie accidents on-set. There are also 19 deleted scenes with optional commentary by director David Frankel – most of the scenes were cut for time and flow but they add a little something to the story. The best bonus is the nearly 20 Purina contest finalist videos featuring unique pooches. And then there’s a digital copy too.