Marmaduke Review

The Marmaduke comic is about a family that lives with a Great Dane, and what they deal with owning a large dog. Marmaduke the movie is about a Great Dane that lives with a family, talks, and enters into a series of high school-level antics. You could not have missed the point anymore.

It’s not fair to blame anyone in particular, aside from that one solo person who thought the concept would make a movie in the first place. You can’t blame co-writers Tim Rasmussen and Vince Di Meglio. You can feel sorry for them, but blaming them isn’t right. What else are you supposed to do with this concept? You can’t have 80-minutes of one-off jokes about the dog getting in trouble; there has to some level of plotting going on here.

So there is, two levels actually. We have the overworked screen dad Phil (Lee Pace) moving his family out to California for a new job, while Marmaduke has to adjust to the different dog breeds and try to fit in. But, wouldn’t you know it, he’s a big dog! Oh no!

Maybe it wouldn’t be the disaster it is if there was any sense that it actually tried. This mess is so familiar as to be its own joke, from the romance with the “big dog’s” girl, to the awkwardness of teenage parties, to an utterly pointless level of drama and danger at the end to wake up the kids who all fell asleep at this non-challenging, mind-numbing material. This is some way to celebrate Fox’s 75th Anniversary.

Dogs dance, get into trouble, and talk with pathetically animated CG mouths, probably enough to keep the younger set interested, at least until a brief spout with mushrooms and being drugged. They won’t get it, the parents will be baffled as to why it’s there, and then everyone can move onto something else. That at least prevents the chance of a sequel.

Movie ★☆☆☆☆ 

It never really fails that some of the most awful modern films are the recipients of magnificent hi-def transfers. Marmaduke is no different. As painful as it may be to say it, this is a gorgeous film. Not for the way it was shot, but the color is truly mesmerizing. Flesh tones may come off a hair towards pink, yet it’s a vibrant, rich, deep shade. It goes with the amazingly saturated greens of the dog parks, the bright blues of the water, and variety of the flowers that literally leap off the screen.

It never falters either. Even in the dark, the color saturation remains, and hardly enough can be said for the level of eye candy it produces. Nothing gets in its way, the AVC encode fully resolving the limited grain structure, rendering it practically unnoticeable. There are no compression issues to speak of. Aiding that color is a wonderfully bright contrast, producing noise-free whites. The true black levels give the image an extra level of dimensionality, while maintaining a flawless level of shadow detail.

There’s not a moment sharpness dips either, the transfer consistently capable of producing the fullest level of high fidelity detail possible. If there’s any fault, it’s in the mid-range, where that texture dips ever so slightly and a few green screen effects gone awry, the latter purely a source issue. At a distance, such as the establishing shots of the houses at 10:19 and 12:27, everything is rendered flawlessly. Facial detail in close, from Phil at 1:04:36 to William H. Macy at 31:23, is nothing short of perfection.

It’s a shame the dogs have been digitally altered, however slightly. When the visual effects are not playing a part, the resolution benefit of the format brings forth every conceivable piece of fur on those dogs. It doesn’t matter the breed either, the long and short hairs produce the same level of definition. When the effects kick-in, there is a smoothing effect (slight) that brushes that fur away on their faces. Had this transfer not been this competent, it probably wouldn’t be noticeable.

Video ★★★★★ 

The DTS-HD mix applied to this film doesn’t really work as you would expect. Marmaduke surfs (no, really) and is picked up by a massive wave, yet the subwoofer doesn’t generate much of a roar, and the surrounds are rather lackluster too. The expectation is to have water all around splashing about, but it’s really dead.

The only notable effort seems to be at the various parties thrown by the dogs (yes, that happens too). Various dog chatter (ugh) can be heard spread around, and the various music generates a small thump in the sub. There are small instances of barking at the dog park squeaking into the rears without much force. Not much leaves the center for the stereo channels either.

The closest the mix comes to a highlight is the finale per se, the dogs swept up by a water mane break. There’s a bit of immersion here, the effect of rushing water spread around the soundfield, and the mix is solid enough to maintain the dialogue over the loosely coined “action.”

Audio ★★★★☆ 

Assuming you want to punish yourself more, there are a string of featurettes here, one looking at the casting of the dogs, some behind-the-scenes stuff on the surfing sequence, the cast chats about their own pets on another, and some puppy/kitten footage that will generate some “awws.” Deleted scenes and some on-set hijinks with the dogs round this off aside from trailers.

Extras ★★☆☆☆