Dec. 27, 2008 — -- Even bad dogs can be lovable.
This is the simple message most of us already knew and the one "Marley & Me" drives home in this fairly banal adaptation of John Grogan's popular memoir. Perhaps the message should have been: Let best-selling dogs lie.
"Marley & Me" might be easy to watch, but — even for die-hard canine lovers — it's as easy to forget.
Talented screenwriters Scott Frank ("Minority Report") and Don Roos ("The Opposite of Sex") clearly understand the appeal of man's best friend; they convey a dog's ability to offer mute acceptance, comfort and loyalty. So the movie strikes a chord by tapping into people's feelings about their own dogs. But plotwise, there's just not a lot to work with.
Marley is a sweet and rambunctious Labrador retriever who never masters the art of walking on a leash or obeying simple commands. But he's undeniably cute and loving, and it's tough not to get misty-eyed when he nears the end of his life.
Just don't expect the human portion of the story to wow you. Owen Wilson and Jennifer Aniston play John and Jenny, a couple who adopt the pup. Their story, as their family grows and jobs change, is, well, ordinary. Wilson has the right combination of easygoing likability, and Aniston is fine, if a bit blah.
Clearly, human chemistry takes a back seat to that between a dog and his human companions. Yet Marley's misadventures play like a TV movie, never reaching the heights of such endearing canine-centered films as 2000's "My Dog Skip."
"Marley & Me" is still reasonably entertaining and perfectly suited for the whole family.