MARLEY & ME (David Frankel, 2008)
In MARLEY & ME newlyweds John and Jennifer Grogan (Owen Wilson and Jennifer Aniston) welcome a cuddly bundle of joy into their home only to discover that it's more than they can handle. The feisty puppy that grows into an untamed dog named Marley wrecks their house but wins their hearts.
John's humorous stories about his troublesome yellow Labrador earn him a promotion from the mundane metro beat to a newspaper column, but writing about canine hijinks isn't what he expected of his career.
No one is going to mistake MARLEY & ME for Bergman, but the deft touch with which it addresses spouses' and parents' professional and personal trade-offs proves this to be a more substantial and poignant picture than expected for what appears to be merely a cute dog movie. It is that and something more.
The film is a surprisingly nuanced study of marriage, suburban family life, and deferred dreams. MARLEY & ME and REVOLUTIONARY ROAD, Sam Mendes' better pedigreed, angst-ridden drama about a dissatisfied couple in the 1950s, are different sides of the same coin. Where REVOLUTIONARY ROAD believes the suburbs crush hopes, MARLEY & ME discovers that unexpected joy can be found in a life that doesn't completely resemble one's youthful visions of adulthood. Such an affirming message isn't exactly earth-shattering, although it is more novel in the movies, where suburbia is frequently equated to hell.
Don't think MARLEY & ME is too serious, though. This is a relatable and entertaining film that laughs knowingly at one dog's mischief-making and the owners growing accustomed to him. Wilson and Aniston are funny and real as their characters cope with life's ups and downs. As John's crusty editor Arnie, Alan Arkin is a reliable source of dry wit, and Eric Dane provides an amusing contrast as the carefree, rising star reporter John wishes he had the freedom to be.
John and Jennifer don't realize how attached they will become to their dog. It's appropriate then that MARLEY & ME has the same effect on the viewer.