For a dog lover, Marley & Me captures all that is right with the companionship between man and animal. Based on a true story and book of the same name by John Grogan, Marley spans the life of a Labrador and his family as they grow. Despite the three kids and multiple cross-country moves, the dog is always center stage in their lives through it all.
Marley isn’t necessarily about the dog. Much of the film is spent on Owen Wilson and Jennifer Aniston’s characters, beginning with their marriage and following their careers as newspaper writers. They decide to adopt, picking out a “clearance puppy” at a shelter named Marley. As it turns out, the dog destroys everything, leading to a variety of antics that any dog owner can relate to.
There’s a wonderful montage not long into the film that’s narrated by Wilson. It covers multiple years of the dog’s life, filling the screen with laughs and a tone that delivers everything people came to see. It’s fantastically edited, heartwarming, and funny.
There’s a lot of time spent on careers and family matters in the second act. The relationship between Wilson and Aniston breaks down, leading to some drama – including Wilson giving up the dog for a short period. In fact, while the dog typically pops in the background, the focus of Marley & Me shifts to the human side of things until the inevitable conclusion.
Marley ends with Marley, and should come with a warning to any dog owner. The finish is excruciating to watch for anyone who has experienced the death of a beloved pet previously. Performances are believable, and director David Frankel goes for the emotional jugular. It feels like hours before it’s over, and while undoubtedly manipulative in a few ways, the majority of the emotion comes through because of the personal attachment pet owners feel to their own.
Unless you’re completely heartless, it’s hard to imagine leaving this one without a tear. It’s hard enough that those truly emotional should just stay away. This is a fun and breezy film for much of its runtime, but not worth the tough finish if you’re not ready for it. It’s one case where things become too realistic, and while not a flaw of the film, is something to know about going in.
With its bright contrast, bold color, and relative sharpness, Marley looks decent in hi-def. Facial detail is lacking in almost all scenes, although artifacting and noise are never an issue. Flesh tones carry an orange or bronze tint to them that never resolves. A moment of flickering occurs at an airport scene. The transfer looks slightly over-processed throughout, but it’s clean without a large number of imperfections.
Audio comes in the form of a DTS-HD mix. There’s not much here to discuss. Dialogue is well mixed into the center channel, never requiring a volume adjustment to hear the smallest whispers. The soundtrack bleeds slightly into the rears with minimal effect. Shots at the beach fail at delivering ambiance, with potential for waves crashing into the shore or random talking. Serviceable and nothing more.
Marley comes to hi-def in a three disc package, including a DVD version and digital copy, not additional discs of features. A selection of 19 deleted scenes come close to 26 minutes, along with an optional commentary. Finding Marley is the first of multiple featurettes, looking into the various dogs used during the shoot (over 20). Breaking the Golden Rule is a wasted promo piece as the actors discuss their time on the set.
Animal Adoption acts a PSA for shelters, When Not to Pee is a brief outtake, a gag reel nearly makes it to six minutes, and an optional trivia track runs along with the film. Not a lot to see here in the end.