Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Marley & Me

Posted By on Wed, Dec 24, 2008 at 12:00 AM

The John Grogan portrayed by Owen Wilson is a newspaper columnist par excellence, who documents his middle-class marriage and family life (along with extreme canine misbehavior) and shares these experiences with readers who identify with his everyday struggles. The Marley & Me constructed by director David Frankel is conventional to the point of generic, a contemporary Norman Rockwell vision enlivened only by the eponymous dog, and the chaos he leaves in his wake.

John and wife Jenny (Jennifer Aniston) are so bland, their challenges so commonplace, that they need the anarchy of the Labrador retriever who will not be tamed (or shamed) to shake them out of their comfort zone. But in adapting the Detroit-born Grogan's best-selling 2005 memoir, screenwriters Scott Frank (a great interpreter of Elmore Leonard's novels) and Don Roos (The Opposite of Sex) keep this exuberant dog on a very tight leash.

The newly married Grogans flee Michigan like snowbirds, steering their clunky Toyota Tercel toward warmer weather and journalism jobs (Jenny at The Palm Beach Post, John at The South Florida Sun-Sentinel). As in The Devil Wears Prada (2006), Frankel's strength is portraying new hires finding their footing, and he has fun with this ambitious young couple, who casually bring a rambunctious puppy into their frenzied lives, not realizing the impact he'll have on them.

When the Grogans become parents, they slide headlong into white-collar American banality. Since their life feeds his column (including quality time with the mischievous Marley), John is in a constant state of quizzical rumination, leaving a frustrated Jenny to question his family commitment (and her own choices). But the steadfast Wilson and Aniston throw themselves into this down-to-earth relationship, even if the film is garden-variety.

What Marley & Me captures best is the lifespan of a dog, from an object to be purchased to a beloved family member worthy of a burial and eulogy. The filmmakers are clearly dog lovers, creating moments of canine-human connection that resonate deeply, including an achingly real depiction of the yellow Lab's final visit to the vet, and his owner's heartfelt last words to "the world's worst dog."

Focusing on the microcosm of family dynamics and career fulfillment instead of the macroeconomics of a new depression, Marley & Me has the feel of a quaint relic, especially now that the kind of daily newspaper that spawned this shaggy dog story is a dying breed.

Serena Donadoni writes about film and culture for Metro Times. Send comments to


We welcome readers to submit letters regarding articles and content in Detroit Metro Times. Letters should be a minimum of 150 words, refer to content that has appeared on Detroit Metro Times, and must include the writer's full name, address, and phone number for verification purposes. No attachments will be considered. Writers of letters selected for publication will be notified via email. Letters may be edited and shortened for space.

Email us at

Support Local Journalism.
Join the Detroit Metro Times Press Club

Local journalism is information. Information is power. And we believe everyone deserves access to accurate independent coverage of their community and state. Our readers helped us continue this coverage in 2020, and we are so grateful for the support.

Help us keep this coverage going in 2021. Whether it's a one-time acknowledgement of this article or an ongoing membership pledge, your support goes to local-based reporting from our small but mighty team.

Join the Metro Times Press Club for as little as $5 a month.

Most Popular

Read the Digital Print Issue

September 22, 2021

View more issues


Never miss a beat

Sign Up Now

Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.

Best Things to Do In Detroit

© 2021 Detroit Metro Times - Contact Us

Website powered by Foundation