'Marley and Me': More than a cute dog (IANS Film Review; Rating: ***)

Film: 'Marley and Me'; Cast: Owen Wilson, Jennifer Aniston, Alan Arkin, Eric Dane; Director: David Frankel; Rating: ***

Film: 'Marley and Me'; Cast: Owen Wilson, Jennifer Aniston, Alan Arkin, Eric Dane; Director: David Frankel; Rating: ***

Hollywood movies about pets are usually annoyingly cute. The movie is titled 'Marley and Me', where Marley is the dog, but it really isn't about Marley. It's about the people around Marley. A couple shape their lives around this the 'world's worst dog' and slowly a family is built with the dog becoming an integral but not the central part of their lives.

Owen Wilson and Jennifer Aniston star in this fine movie directed by David Frankel based on a book by John Grogan. The movie is surprising in the way it doesn't pander to us by making the dog endearingly cute. The dog doesn't teach the characters any major life lessons or anything like that. The movie actually is about marriage, the importance of commitment, sacrifice, unfulfilled dreams and finding joy in unexpected places.

Wilson and Aniston play newly married couple working for different newspapers. They get a dog to delay having children, but the dog soon is a terror. Over a span of 13 years the couple go though the highs and lows of married life, have three children and in the end have to say goodbye to the dog that has been such an integral part of their lives. The first half of the movie focuses on the shenanigans of the dog but soon veers off into a more mature exploration of the difficulties of married life.

John is easygoing but his wife is super organised and has their whole lives planned out. Both have to make sacrifices and the movie doesn't flinch from some of the ugliness that can creep into such intimate relationships. The dog Marley more often is an observer just like us and only sometimes does he drive the plot.

The acting is decent. Wilson has always done a commendable job and in some pivotal scene which could have been milked for their emotionality, he plays it down and adds a touch of dignity to sorrow. Aniston had for a long time played the nice girl, but here she brings more depth and complexity. She doesn't play the long suffering wife and there are scenes where she is downright vicious.

Alan Arkin plays a role undeserving of him. He won an Oscar for 'Little Miss Sunshine' and his part could have been greatly developed. Eric Dane from 'Grey's Anatomy' doesn't do much to make an impression.

Some might be misled to think this is just another movie with a cute dog, but they should check this movie out anyway. It may not have laugh-out-loud comedy, but it is light, endearing and with a good touch of drama.

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