Movie Review: “Marley and Me”

I haven’t set foot inside a commercial movie theater since 1993. No, I’m not kidding. Ticket prices, higher priorities, other interests and an utter lack of interest in most of the junk Hollywood cranks out these days disguised as “movies” have kept me away from theaters for years. So you know something unusual – maybe even remarkable – drew me into the theater today to see the comedy/drama Marley and Me.

Truth is, I wasn’t planning on seeing Marley and Me – or anything else. But my husband and older sons were on an all-day youth group outing, leaving me home with our youngest. Josiah wasn’t exactly jumping for joy about being left behind. So I called the local cinema center on a lark, got the usual unintelligible recording, but deciphered just enough of it to catch something about a family and a yellow Labrador retriever. I’ve been a sucker for yellow Labs ever since Old Yeller. In fact, our good dog is a yellow Lab. So Marley and Me was a no-brainer.

We bought two matinee tickets and walked into a theater that was two-thirds full, oppressively stuffy, and had the soles of my shoes sticking to the floor. I almost turned around and walked out. Only reason I didn’t was because I didn’t want to disappoint Josiah. I’m glad I stayed. Marley and Me was a pleasant surprise.

This charming, rambunctious, family-oriented movie is about a “clearance puppy,” aka; “the world’s worst dog,” and the havoc and happiness he wreaks within the Grogan household.   Based on the best selling book from Philadelphia Inquirer columnist Josh Grogan, Marley and Me has Owen Wilson playing Grogan with deadpan good humor and Jennifer Aniston as his wife, Jen.

The movie opens just after the Grogan’s wedding in southern Michigan which is accompanied by a blizzard.  The couple moves to “some place warmer” – Florida – where both husband and wife land jobs as reporters.  Josh reports mostly mundane stories for the Sun-Sentinel until his hard-boiled editor (Alan Arkin) asks him to take on a twice-a-week column.  Self-described as “full of surprises,” Josh reluctantly accepts and soon finds his niche writing columns about “regular, every day stuff:” his wife, their growing family, and the uproarious antics of the rascally, rambunctious Marley (named for the singer Bob).

One thing I especially appreciated about this movie is that it portrays the stresses and strains, exhaustions and joys of family life realistically, without stereotypes of clichés.  Jen eventually gives up her career to stay home full-time with the Grogan’s sons, who are later joined by “whups,” their third child, a daughter.  The family gets a minivan, moves into a larger home in Boca and eventually settles in Pennsylvania where Grogan writes for the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Dissatisfied with hard news reporting, Grogan eventually finds his way back to what he loves most and does best – writing a column about “regular, every day stuff.”

Meanwhile, Grogan’s “regular, every day” family life – complete with dirty diapers, messy houses, thunder storms, unfinished homework, soccer games and snowball fights – is subtly contrasted to the ostensibly more glitzy, glamorous life of Sebastian Tunney, a hot bachelor reporter. A choice scene occurs toward the end of the movie in which Grogan runs in to Tunney – on assignment for yet another plum story – and passing through Philadelphia.

Tunney inquires about the family and Grogan proudly pulls out a snapshot of Jen and the kids and of course, the four-legged rascal, Marley.  They exchange a few pleasantries before Grogan mentions that he has to get going because his son has a soccer game.  The two friends shake hands and promise to “get together some time.”  Tunney flashes his trademark toothy grin and roams down the sidewalk, hitting on yet another young woman while Grogan, clearly the richer and more fulfilled of the two, heads back to his wife and kids and that crazy, loveable yellow Lab that has a few surprises himself.

I forgot all about the over-warm theater, the stale air and sticky cement floor about halfway through this movie.  It was delightful.  I walked out of the theater hugging my son and hurrying home to hug my good dog and the rest of my family.

To be sure, Marley and Me isn’t Gone With the Wind, but it doesn’t pretend to be.  It’s a gem of a little “sleeper” and has a gentle, unpretentious quality to it that all dog lovers – and everyone else – can enjoy.  Go see it.  And be sure to bring Kleenex.

Caution: Marley and Me is rated PG.  A few brief scenes and lines may be inappropriate for very young viewers.

Shared by Kristine, author, blogger, homeschooler, professional mom and chief wrangler at the ‘ole testosterone ranch.

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