Marley and Me

Marley and Me on Blu-ray disc

From the title, you'd think this movie was about a person and a dog. It isn't.

Actually, it's about writers John and Jenny Grogan (Owen Wilson and Jennifer Aniston) and their dog (and you'd think that, being writers, they'd call the adventure "Marley and I"!). It isn't really about the human-canine relationship at all, which makes the title even less apt. In reality, the dog Marley is an integral family member, but the story is really about John and Jenny and how they grow their family and their lives.

Marley is a Labrador pup John gives Jenny as a gift. He's the runt of the litter and they get him for a "clearance" price. That should have been their first warning but, if nothing else, he's as cute as a Lab can be.

But he's also unruly in the extreme, embarrassingly so for the Grogans. He eats things as if he were a goat, which really gets John and Jenny's goat, and he's unmanageable on a leash. But they love him and persevere.

We don't know if Cesar Millan was around during the period in which this movie is set, but if he were the Grogans could've been trained to be the pack leaders and have a lot better quality of life. Instead, they're perpetual victims, as are various house sitters, innocent bystanders, trainers, etc.

Of course if they'd gone the Dog Whisperer route there wouldn't be a Marley and Me as such, though that may not have been that bad a thing. Besides, as mentioned, the movie isn't about their relationship with the dog; it's about their relationship, with the dog as an unsupportive supporting character.

So if you're looking for a "man and his dog" movie, look elsewhere. If, however, you're looking at a fairly interesting look at a pair of newlyweds as they build a life and family together, this is more what you get.

John is a reporter who gets a chance to write a column – and makes it highly successful. Alas, he wants to be a reporter, not a creative writer, and this always galls him – so much so that he eventually moves his family from Florida to Pennsylvania to be a lowly reporter again.

The transition is difficult for him – at one point, his new editor tells him to only put facts in the story, and to keep his opinions out. The scene caused this writer to lose any suspension of disbelief and be sure that, rather than this movie being fiction (or fact-based) it's total fantasy.

The movie itself is okay; we watched it in a family environment – Dad, Mom, Son and Daughter-in-law and the women appeared to like it quite a bit. The heartless males, however, found it less than particularly interesting.

That said, you'd have to be made of stone not to be moved by the final sequences, when it's time for Marley to mosey to his Maker, which even had at least one of the insensitive males finding a lump in his throat – much to his chagrin.

Of course, that male has been down the "having to say goodbye to a beloved animal" path more than a few times, and the section struck home well.

Other than that, the film is spotty. Wilson and Aniston are very good as the young (at first, anyway) couple embarking on life's greatest adventure. Their characterizations are believable and the characters aren't painted with a glossy, unrealistic brush. There are times when we thought both of them deserved a good slap, but that's what life brings.

And while the movie is basically a period piece, it works more as a "semi-colon piece" because they appear to have screwed up the period. For example, we noticed a Nissan Murano in the background of a scene supposedly set before there was such a vehicle. Nit picky? Maybe. Or is it a lack of attention to detail on the part of the film makers?

The Blu-ray we received from Fox was the "3-Disc Bad Dog Edition" and it's pretty good.  The three discs are the BD, a standard def (read "old tech!") DVD and a digital copy. We only watched the BD, since that's what we review.

The movie is presented in 1080p widescreen at an aspect ratio of 2.35:1. Picture quality is very good, with a nice, sharp and colorful image that has pretty good depth. The colors look particularly delicious during the scenes set in a Pennsylvania autumn, where the leaves look glorious.

Audio is dts HD 5.1 Master Audio and it's good as well. This is not the type of movie with which you expect to give your home theater a good workout and it's a good thing not to expect that. We didn't notice a lot of surround, either, but the overall quality is fine.

You get quite a bit of extra stuff thrown in, too, including a bunch of deleted scenes and "Finding Marley", which looks at the 22 dogs they used in the film.

Other featurettes include "On the Set with Marley: Dog of all Trades" (a purported "interview" with the "dog that played Marley"), "Breaking the Golden Rule" (the cast and crew talking about how it isn't really a dog film at all but a movie about the Grogan family – as we've just pointed out), and "Animal Adoption" extols the virtues (and things to keep in mind) of adopting your pet from a shelter or pound – a concept with which we agree wholeheartedly.

There's also a series of out takes, a "dog training trivia track" and more.

Marley and Me, from 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment
115 min. 1080p high definition widescreen (2.35:1), dts HD 5.1 Master audio
Starring Owen Wilson, Jennifer Aniston, Eric Dane and Alan Arkin
Produced by Karen Rosenfelt Gil Netter
Written by Scott Frank and Don Roos, directed by David Frankel

Jim Bray's columns are available from the TechnoFile Syndicate.

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