When the movie was about to come out you probably weren’t able to go anywhere or watch anything without encountering an ad for Marley & Me. The ads played up the antics of the dog whose name is featured in the title or, because it was coming out around Christmas, showed you a cute little puppy with a bow around his neck. The campaign caught a lot of flack after the movie opened because it’s very much not a “cute dog” movie that’s great for the whole family but instead features a bevy of very adult issues and themes.
And that’s what I really dug about Marley & Me.
Jennifer Aniston and Owen Wilson play a young married couple whose life we’re following through a handful of very real moments both good and bad. From the enthusiasm of starting their life together through the tragedy of miscarriage to the joy of starting a family to struggling with jobs and self-identification issues, these are all moments that a lot of people have gone through. To their credit, Aniston and Wilson do their level best to not be overshadowed by the dog or the kids and not only do the pair provide some laughs but also some very real drama.
There are a handful of those expected “cute dog” moments within the movie but they’re honestly few and far between. More often than not, actually, the kinds of antics the dog engages in that in other movies would be played for laughs are in this one used to move the story along by providing a point of tension and/or bonding between the humans in the film. That’s a pretty unique role for the dog – which is setup to be the focal point of the movie – to play and it’s a credit to the screenwriters that they managed to create a movie that works as more than fluffy entertainment.
I’m not saying Marley & Me is a cutting portrait of disillusionment. It’s not. The characters – based on real people since the movie is based on a non-fiction book about life with and around this unruly dog – are more or less optimistic and use the tragedies and hardships they face as launching pads for doing it better the next time. So if you’re into dark character studies that deconstruct the suburban mythos you’ll be disappointed. But it also doesn’t shy away from showing that life, even with a larger-than life mess of a dog, isn’t always sunshine and flowers.
The DVD release of Marley & Me comes with a whole batch of bonus features that range from pretty interesting to mildly entertaining fluff.
- Deleted Scenes – Pretty self explanitory. Nothing relevatory here but there are some interesting character moments.
- Gag Reel – Not the traditional gag reel you might expect. This is a pretty highly polished montage of people mugging for the camera.
- Finding Marley – The search for the dog.
- Breaking the Golden Rule – Wilson and Aniston discuss breaking the rules about never working with animals and/or babies.
- On the Set with Marley – About working with the dog.
- Animal Adoption – Again, you can guess what this is about.
- Purina Dog Chow videos – A couple features about a video contest Purina, a promotional partner in the movie’s marketing and featured prominently in the movie, ran when the movie was about to hit theaters.
- When Not to Pee – Yep.
I have to say I was more than pleasantly surprised by Marley & Me. I expected a mildly entertaining romantic comedy, but the realistic portrait of struggles of the characters that the movie actually contains wound up being not only far more entertaining but far more interesting than I presumed it to be.