This demands the question: Did anyone on earth ever really think that Marmaduke was funny? The poorly drawn tales of a rambunctious Great Dane have been listlessly making space between Family Circus and Beetle Bailey for nearly five decades now, proving that popularity is often a function of just showing up.
Armed only with vague name recognition and a cheap rights deal, 20th Century Fox greenlighted this turkey, with little more than the promise of talking dogs and fire hydrant jokes as a guiding light.
Like an endless 1990's Cheetos ad, Owen Wilson's Marmaduke keeps blabbering cool-dude slang, and doing radical stuff like playing Dance Dance Revolution and hanging 20 on a surfboard. The "plot," for lack of a better term, finds the title pooch and his human family moving from Kansas to L.A, so Marmaduke can run with a new pack of mutts and various celebrities can embarrass themselves by doing truly uninspired voiceover work.
George Lopez plays a cat who, oddly enough, sounds just like the Frito Bandito, and Steve Coogan plays a snippy terrier. Kiefer Sutherland growls as the local menacing Doberman, and Stacey "Don't Call me Fergie" Ferguson proves she really is a bitch as a haughty purebred collie in heat.
The humans fare no better; Lee Pace and Judy Greer suffer gamely while waiting to fire their agents and the sad sight of a broken-down William H. Macy proves that shame has no meaning anymore.
Some of the half-hearted pop-culture gags clearly target parents in the audience, because, apparently, when you successfully procreate, your sense of humor seeps from your body like afterbirth. Every fart, pratfall and outdated reference (both Wayne's World and Almost Famous get nods in one scene) lands with a huge, dog-waste-sized thud. Yes, kids will like it, but kids also like eating Play-Doh.
Truthfully, we've been through worse travesties — Bill Murray voiced Garfield, and somehow the union endured — but Marmaduke is such an appalling piece of hackwork it makes you long for the subtle artistry of Herbie Goes Bananas. Bad doggie, bad! Heel.
Corey Hall writes about film for Metro Times. Send comments to [email protected].
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