On my 10th birthday, my parents gave me an adorable little pup. He was a Jack Russell Terrier, and we called him Hercules, partly because he was a tough guy, but mostly because it just sounded funny. Unfortunately, our backyard wasn’t really big enough for a manic dog like him, and he stayed up all night barking. He used to kill mice and leave them in front of the door to impress us. On two separate trips to the vet, he jumped out of the window of our car while we were stopped at the traffic lights. Living with Hercules was hell, but damn it, I loved that dog.
So, carrying the mental scars of a dog owner, I sat down (unprepared) to Marley and Me. It’s a tough film for me to talk about. On the one hand, it’s a fairly standard romantic comedy. On the other, it’s an incredibly touching (and ultimately heartbreaking) story about a man and his dog. Would I lose all my credibility if I said I got more emotional at the end of Marley and Me than The Curious Case of Benjamin Button? Oh right. What credibility?
Newlyweds John and Jennifer Grogan are settling into married life pretty comfortably. Find good jobs. Done. Buy the right house. Done. Have some kids. Do…. well, maybe not just yet. Jennifer (Aniston) is keen, but John (Wilson) isn’t quite ready to surrender completely. He buys her a dog called Marley to keep her distracted for a few years. Unfortunately, it turns out to be “the world’s worst dog”, a title surely every owner has proclaimed of their own pet.
But for all of Marley’s destructive ways, John and Jennifer fall in love with him. And despite his seeming inability to follow instruction, Marley seems to genuinely care for his owners. Over the course of the film, Marley teaches them about life and love and blah blah blah. Look, you already know if you’re seeing this film based on the poster of the cute puppy.
Owen Wilson and Jennifer Aniston are a pretty pair to watch. Wilson’s regular shtick has been toned down significantly, which is probably appropriate for the film, but I kind of miss it. Alan Arkin is great as always in a small supporting role. Everything about the movie is fine, if a little forgettable. Everything until the last half hour. Oh man. Now I hadn’t heard of John Grogan’s memoir Marley and Me before I saw the film, but I’m told it’s a very famous and well loved book. It’s also known for having a very, very sad ending. I can vouch that director David Frankel succeeds in wringing out every last tear from the audience.
I genuinely had to distract myself in the cinema during the more upsetting scenes. “OK, don’t be the guy who cried in Marley and Me.” But look, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with letting go of your emotions during a film. Virtually everyone in the cinema was stifling tears, snuffling their noses and wiping their eyes over and over again. One little girl was reduced to a bawling mess. But she walked out of the screening with a smile on her face. You can always pick the dog owners.