Fox // 2008 // 115 Minutes // Rated PG
Reviewed by Judge Kent Dixon (Retired) // April 20th, 2009
Life and love with the world's worst dog.
Book to film adaptations are challenging at the best of times. The sheer scope of a novel can easily wind up falling flat when an attempt is made to bring it to the big screen. While there have been many skillful projects like the Lord of the Rings Trilogy and many of the Harry Potter novels, there have also been murky, overambitious attempts like David Lynch's take on Dune. So how does author John Grogan's novel Marley & Me fare in this often rocky transition? Even more importantly, does the film warrant a Blu-ray purchase over standard DVD?
Shortly after their wedding, John (Owen Wilson) and Jenny Grogan (Jennifer Aniston) move to south Florida to escape the harsh northeastern winters. It's not long before the couple begins to discuss having children and in an attempt to stem the tide of motherhood, and acting on a friend's advice, John brings home a Labrador retriever named Marley as a test to see if they're ready to start their family or not. As Marley grows, so do the Grogans, realizing that their one-dog wrecking crew really does bring out the best in them.
I have a confession to make right up front: I have not read the novel. It's not that I haven't been curious, more that I have been very busy lately and the bedside 'must read' pile continues to grow. As a self-confessed dog lover, a family man, and a guy who likes to laugh, the film has managed to land on my 'must rent list' since we missed the theatrical release, so here I am. Knowing I would be seeing the film sooner than later, I deliberately stayed away from the novel, giving the film a fighting chance to stand on its own before I turn a page.
You know going into this film that there are a few foregone conclusions: there will be a dog who gets into trouble and some ensuing mayhem, there may be several 'can the couple reconcile their differences and live happily ever after' moments, and perhaps most concerning one once the disc starts spinning, will this be another failed career reboot attempt for either Owen, Jennifer, or both? Happily, Marley & Me delivers many retriever-generated laughs, the movie is touching but never bogs down in smarminess, and Wilson and Aniston are remarkably good together, with the supporting cast contributing to the strength of the film in all the right ways. Also, any film that starts with REM's "Shiny Happy People" can't be all bad, right?
This may seem like an odd statement, but the 1080p video presentation is remarkably true to life. To me at least, Blu-ray video can come across as hyper-real or artificial, which is fine and expected with a film like The Matrix, The Incredible Hulk, or Speed Racer, but it can keep the viewer from fully engaging in a more mainstream release. Visually, Marley & Me is razor sharp and some viewers may find the color palette to be a bit bland, but as the movie progresses, you quickly come to realize that what you're seeing on screen is incredibly true to life. While still a solid example of high-quality DVD presentation on the audio and video fronts, the standard definition version of the film that is included on disc two of this release just doesn't have the dynamic color and fine detail evident throughout the Blu-ray version. For me, the true test of a quality audio presentation on a film like this is whether I notice it's there or not. The DTS-HD audio presentation is crisp, well-balanced and never distracts from the story or on-screen action, complimenting the video in every way.
Continuing on a high note, Fox delivers a solid sampling of extra features, beginning with commentaries from director David Frankel on four extended and 11 deleted scenes. The release's five featurettes, all included in HD, cover a broad range of topics: "Finding Marley" addresses the search for the perfect dog to play the title character...since the film covers 14 years of Marley's life, 22 different yellow Labs played the role over the course of the film; "Breaking The Golden Rule" talks about the key messages behind the film and some of the story elements that make the film unique; "On Set With Marley: Dog Of All Trades" delivers a short but amusing subtitled interview with Marley himself; "Animal Adoption" encourages viewers who may want a particular breed of dog to consider adoption; and the subject of "When Not To Pee" is best left to the imagination. In addition to the featurettes and commentaries, a gag reel and a picture-in-picture "Dog Training Trivia" track round out the extras nicely.
I'm not a fan of the current trend of adding DVD and digital copy versions of films to Blu-ray releases. I understand the digital copy is included in an effort to control the distribution of quality copies of the film and stem the tide of piracy and that all makes sense. But why include a DVD version of the film when someone has already made the clear decision to purchase the film in a hi-def format? Should consumers really be forced to pay for three versions of the film if all they really want is one? For me at least, the DVD and digital copy versions of films on releases like this are a waste of both storage space and money.
Marley & Me takes a New York Times award-winning novel and based on critical response successfully adapts the content for the screen. The resulting film stands as a unique piece that is not purely comedy, romance, or family film, but a delightful hybrid of several genres.
Marley & Me is a solid Blu-ray release of an entertaining and moving film. Aside from the small reservations based on the potentially wasteful inclusion of DVD and digital copies on this release, fans of the book or film should definitely consider adding Marley & Me to their library.
Review content copyright © 2009 Kent Dixon; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2013 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* 2.35:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)
* DTS HD 5.1 Master Audio (English)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (French)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (Portuguese)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (Spanish)
Running Time: 115 Minutes
Release Year: 2008
MPAA Rating: Rated PG
* Deleted Scenes
* DVD copy
* Digital copy
* Official Site