Marley & Me: The Puppy Years Review

Why is Marley talking? Isn’t this a prequel to the heart warming and gut wrenching original? Isn’t Marley & Me: The Puppy Years more conducive to the Beverly Hills Chihuahua series or that dreadful Air Bud thing? Why does this share the name at all? Who thought this was appropriate?

Why is there a running fart joke gag? Why is Marley trainable? What happened to Owen Wilson and Jennifer Aniston? How does the offensive German stereotype villain afford a million dollar mansion by entering dog competitions that have 20 onlookers and are filmed on a soundstage? Why are there obvious attempts to milk 3D effects despite the movie not being released in 3D?

Why are there random events totally unconnected to the rest of the story? Why are the multiple dogs used so obvious? Why does The Puppy Years see fit to reuse its own footage? Why are we wasting time with a bed making lesson? Why are the opening credits so painfully cheap and uninspired? Why does the one pyrotechnic shot ruin itself by exposing the pipe used to set it off?

How can anyone edit a movie so illogically? Why would Canadians allow such an abomination to be filmed on their turf? How can Marley read a newspaper? Why does the plot follow such a predictable path? Why are the CG talking dog (and cat!) mouths so obvious? Why is the kid voicing Marley so annoying? Why do we think are kids are so stupid they need talked down to?

Why is the world round? Why is the sky blue? Why is this still going on? But most of all, who in the hell thought it was a good idea to make a sequel that is so divergent from the original, lacks all of the heart, charm, drama, and meaning, and tramples on the original story? An idiot, that’s who.

Movie ☆☆☆☆☆ 

He put the shades on himself. Really. @ 20:14

Because no one on the corporate ladder could be bothered one iota while this trash was being developed, there’s little doubt this was filmed on a budget less than a typical Disney direct-to-cable flick or a SyFy Channel original by the Asylum. So, the shoot was digital, and the material is almost totally non-challenging for this encode. Why then does it falter so often?

Enough questions, as Puppy Years routinely finds a way to muck its presentation up. Shots can be overloaded with compression, others suffering the wrath of blatant pixelization, and still more sucking up some low light noise because it seems to enjoy it. Facial detail only comes into view with fairly extreme close-ups, and texture is mostly reserved for the dogs… when they’re not talking. The sparkling clarity of HD reveals how pitiful the effects are, smoothing out the fur so a computer generated mouth can be slapped in as quickly as possibly. Even the Asylum execs are laughing, and they made Mega Shark vs. Giant Octopus.

Maybe it’s all being too unfair. Puppy Years benefits from digital, producing a fairly sparkling, clear series of images that do admittedly impress. Exteriors of the mansion are stunning, and the dogs, when presented without blatant manipulation, leap from the screen. The level of detail on the fur is striking. This is a kids movie (although even that’s a stretch), saturated heavily with plenty of primaries and countless opportunities to show them off. Oh, and one scene is drenched in teal, because you know, it’s illegal these days to make a movie without it.

Even in the dim confines of that hilariously cheap dog competition set, the contrast will carry a hefty boost. Scenes are always bright and vivid, producing a crispness that almost makes this tolerable to watch (not really). Black levels hold their ground even if they don’t reach their full potential.

Video ★★★★☆ 

Someone hates their job, and you can’t blame them. Would you want to mix Puppy Years? Nope, and neither did the sound designer. He deserves some mercy points, mostly because he (or she!) was probably rushed to get this done in a matter of days, and never stood a chance. Why else is this meaningless DTS-HD mix so boring?

Oh wait, those are more questions. Sorry.

Anyway, there’s nothing to really go on short of the miserable soundtrack, including a Marley hip-hop track that should forever be negated to the bottom of a river, never to be heard again. The stereos don’t get much action at all until a cornball chase sequence at the end, the best Puppy Years will sound. There is some tracking front to back and a little side-to-side action going on as Marley chases a cat through the set. Dialogue doesn’t prove to be anything special, and the lack of compression only means the kids voicing the animals grate on your nerves twice as fast.

Audio ★★★☆☆ 

The Puppy Years Goes to Training Camp kicks off a slim slate of bonuses, this one detailing the dogs and how they’re trained. Part of the Family is… something? It’s sort of a random montage of still images, clips from the movie, behind-the-scenes fluff, and it’s all set to music. Make of it what you will. My Favorite Moments has the cast and crew detailing their set memories, while footage pads it out to just over four minutes.

Extras ★☆☆☆☆