Whom Dogs Destroy
I recently allowed a female friend to talk me into seeing the new dog movie Marley & Me
and found myself wishing that it really was as good as she seemed to think it was. But it wasn't.
Indeed, it is one of the worst movies about dogs I've seen in a while -- perhaps because it makes clear early on that it wants to be more than just another wacky dog comedy fit to go on the DVD shelf alongside Beethoven
-- but does not quite achieve this.
The movie was based on the real-life memoirs of a former dog owner (played by Owen Wilson) who was apparently one of the most irresponsible dog owners on the planet. Granted, I give him and his wife (played by Jennifer Aniston) credit for not simply abandoning the pooch once he started becoming a problem. But my sympathy for the couple goes only so far. And not because I can't sympathize with pet owners. After all, my best friend is a dog owner and the woman I saw this film with also loved dogs. For that matter, I can spend all day going on about how my godmother's collie was the mellowest dog in the universe but unfortunately, the dog in Marley & Me
is nothing like that dog.
The dog in question, a golden retriever named “Marley,” is a destructive young dog that seems to delight in destroying furniture and making life hell for his owners. The couple attempts to train the dog by taking it to a professional dog trainer but once that effort fails, the couple basically gives up on trying to bring the canine under control. The couple is not totally irresponsible; they do get the dog neutered. But they never quite get it controlled and worse yet, the movie seems to act like such efforts were totally unnecessary.
In a way, it could be argued that Marley & Me
is a parody of the traditional dog movie in that it expects the movie audience to wax sentimental over a pooch that is nothing like the well-trained dogs of the Lassie
and Old Yeller
eras. But then the dog starts interacting with people apart from Owen and Jen and suddenly the couple's inability to control their dog is not all that funny. The dog makes life hell for a would-be dog sitter and ruins an outing at a local dog beach. Yet we the audience are still encouraged to forgive all that and just pay attention to a few sentimental moments between the dog and his owners. The idea apparently being that it is perfectly okay for Marley to destroy stuff and harass people as long as he gives Owen and Jen an occasional kiss on the lips or accompanies them on a walk through the woods.
The movie does make a few attempts at realism -- for example, the “novel” revelation that marriage is hard work and so (surprise, surprise) is child rearing. But it also exploits the hell out of the dog's inevitable aging process and the last few scenes with the dog are especially lacking in subtlety.
At the end of the film, I did not really hate Marley. After all, he was not responsible for the way he was trained. But I did have great contempt for his owners, who seemed like the type of people who always have to be reminded to curb their pet and so forth yet consider themselves superior to more responsible pet owners.
Oh, well. At least the human protagonists managed to raise their children more successfully than they did the dog. Though I can't help but wonder if the audience would have liked this movie as much if they had to live next door to a dog like Marley...
Labels: Jennifer Aniston, Marley y Yo, Owen Wilson, Películas Nuevas II, Perros