Marley & Me is based on the best-selling book by journalist John Grogan (played in the film by Owen Wilson) about the 13 years where he and his family owned a very naughty, yet lovable, Labrador retriever named Marley. The film is partly a series of gags about Marley’s antics and partly a domestic drama about Grogan adjusting to married life, having children and settling into a career as a columnist that doesn’t exactly fulfil the aspirations that got him into journalism in the first place.
There is something very pedestrian about this film and material that may have worked as a series of witty columns in a newspaper, which is how Grogan’s book originated, simply hasn’t translated that well onto film. The scenes depicting Marley’s antics are supposedly meant to be cute or funny but too many of them fall flat. Too often the film becomes a series of gags about Marley misbehaving but none of the gags are all that inventive. The film becomes slightly more interesting when it edges into domestic drama territory but like the comedy scenes, it all feels half-hearted. There is nothing significantly wrong with Marely & Me and nothing about it to actively dislike, it just doesn’t hit many high notes.
Nevertheless, Marley & Me is worth persevering with as despite its initial blandness it does evolve in something quite touching. The final third of the film finally addresses the shared history that people have with the animals in their lives. Marely & Me is an average film but it is sweet and ultimately very touching. Dog lovers will probably get a lot more out of it but anybody who has owned a pet of some kind will appreciate the final sentiment about the bond between humans and a domestic animal.