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Case Number 19663

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Marmaduke (Blu-Ray)

Fox // 2010 // 88 Minutes // Rated PG
Reviewed by Judge Erich Asperschlager // September 13th, 2010

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All Rise...

If you see Judge Erich Asperschlager shake and roll over, call 9-1-1.

Editor's Note

Our review of Marmaduke, published September 20th, 2010, is also available.

The Charge


Opening Statement

What do you get when you mix an aging comic strip, a boatload of big-name actors, kid movie cliches, and a weird canine CGI dance sequence? A messy pile of dog food called Marmaduke. It's not a great movie, but hey—it makes its own gravy.

Facts of the Case

Marmaduke (voiced by Owen Wilson, The Darjeeling Limited) is a big dog who runs, plays, and farts his way through a charmed life in Kansas with his owners, the Winslow family. When dad Phil (Lee Pace, Pushing Daisies) gets a job offer from an organic pet food company in California, Marmaduke and his "step brother," a cat named Carlos (George Lopez, Beverly Hills Chihuahua), make the journey from the heartland to the ocean, a change not only in geography but also in pet culture. In the local dog park, Marmaduke meets a group of lovable "mutts," tomboy Mazie (Emma Stone, The House Bunny), brainy Raisin (Steve Coogan, Tropic Thunder), and cowardly Giuseppe (Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Superbad)—a group of outsiders looked down on by a group of wealthy, pure-bred "pedigrees." Marmaduke falls for a pedigree named Jezebel (Fergie, Nine), who also happens to be the girlfriend of mean alpha dog Bosco (Kiefer Sutherland, 24). Through an adventure that includes a dog house party, a dog surfing competition, and a ghostly figure they call "Chupadogra" (Sam Elliott, Tombstone), Marmaduke and his owner both learn valuable lessons about family and being true to yourself. Then everybody dances.

The Evidence

I probably shouldn't harp on the CGI dance sequence at the end of Marmaduke, but it's a pretty good representation of the movie's problems. It comes out of nowhere, makes zero sense, and exists for no other reason than because kids like dancing dogs. Or maybe I should say, because some Hollywood execs think kids like dancing dogs. As far as I can tell, the whole movie is a collection of ideas that a committee of studio folks (the kind that exist in my mind, dressed in grey suits and chomping on solid gold cigars) threw up on a white board, drew out of a hat, and assembled in random order.

The movie's basic plot—Marmaduke and his owners move to California and try to fit in—is fine. It's a fish out of water contrivance that has worked in plenty of other movies. Add in the conflict between the poorer "mutts" and the rich snob "pedigrees," and you're halfway to an '80s comedy with dogs. During Marmaduke's first visit to the dog park, Mazie describes it as a "high school for dogs," with canine equivalents of all the standard cliques: jocks, cheerleaders, stoners, outcasts, and drama geeks. It's almost clever. There's even a preppie pedigree party down at the yacht club (albeit under the pier) that Marmaduke and his mutt pals crash. Unfortunately, the premise is quickly abandoned to focus on the far less interesting human characters, and on a ridiculous dog surfing competition that probably should have been the climax of the movie, but only marks the halfway point.

After the surfing competition, the movie effectively reboots, piling on lame jokes and house parties, and a forced last act that goes from Marmaduke running away from home to an action-packed finale that stretches what little believability there is. In the finale (and if you care about going into Marmaduke unspoiled, abandon this paragraph now), a city street collapses, throwing Mazie and Marmaduke into the rushing water of a sewer system, sending firemen, police, and Phil on a dangerous mission to save them. I suppose it's thrilling, but aside from the fact it features a Great Dane calling for help, it's got nothing to do with this movie.

Marmaduke is a talking dog flick of the "real dog, fake mouth" variety. The effect can be hit or miss. In this movie, it works pretty well. The concept, however, is confusing. Marmaduke talks in the presence of his human counterparts, but it's almost always to camera or to another animal. It's never really clear whether Phil and the others can hear him, or whether his talking comes through as barks, or whether it's all in his head. I know it shouldn't matter, but this movie makes so little sense I'm desperate for any consistency.

As one would expect from a modern kids movie, there's plenty of stunt casting. The ubiquitous (and occasionally awesome) Owen Wilson voices the main mutt. He does a decent enough job, and given the relative realism of this movie I won't point out that a large dog should probably have a lower voice. George Lopez plays his cat companion, Carlos. Despite his prominence on the cover, he doesn't get that much screentime. Marmaduke's main animal interaction is with Emma Stone's sweet Mazie, though he also gets to chew the scenery with Kiefer Sutherland's bad-guy Bosco, who is as menacing as his love interest, Jezebel, played by the Black Eyed Peas' Fergie, is vapid. Notable humans include Pushing Daisies' Lee Pace as Phil, Judy Greer as his wife, Debbie, and William H. Macy in a check-cashing performance as Phil's boss. There are almost too many actors crammed in Marmaduke's 88 minutes to appreciate the supporting work of Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Steve Coogan, the Wayans brothers, and the incomparable Sam Elliott. I can't remember the last time I've seen this much talent in such a lousy movie.

Marmaduke hits Blu-ray with a 1080p AVC-encoded 2.35:1 transfer that, while sharp, is also pretty washed out, especially in the sun-bleached outdoor sequences. Still, the color is natural, with nice skin and fur tones, and a kids' movie push towards the brighter hues. This isn't a reference disc, but I can't imagine anyone watching it more than once, anyway. The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio mix pumps out the pop music soundtrack with a good range from high notes to bass. The rear speakers don't get much to do, but everything from dialogue to dog farts comes through with unfortunate clarity.

The kid-focused bonus features are fluffy and short. They include two minutes of deleted scenes, a dog surfing featurette called (of course) "Cowabarka!," and a "Canine Casting" reel, all of which appear on the DVD copy. The Blu-ray disc has those features, plus a lame gag reel, three minutes of "Puppy Marmaduke and Kitty Carlos: Home Movies," narrated by a kid who's supposed to be the Winslow's son, and a BD-Live bonus featurette where the cast talks about their real-life pets.

Closing Statement

Marmaduke is the worst kind of movie by committee, a shallow collection of cliches that feels like someone is ticking down a kids' movie checklist. There's nothing inherently wrong with making a movie about a dog with personality (see my review of Air Bud), but you have to let the inherent charm of man's best friend shine through. Kids like dogs. Adding CGI mouths and making them krump to hip-hop music doesn't help. Neither does adding toilet humor, abandoned subplots, outdated references to The O.C., and scenes arguably too scary for the only viewers young enough not to care how bad this movie is.

The Verdict

This Dane ain't that Great. Guilty!

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Scales of Justice

Video: 85
Audio: 85
Extras: 50
Acting: 65
Story: 60
Judgment: 65

Perp Profile

Studio: Fox
Video Formats:
• 2.35:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)
Audio Formats:
• 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)
• English (SDH)
• Cantonese
• Mandarin
• Portuguese
• Spanish
Running Time: 88 Minutes
Release Year: 2010
MPAA Rating: Rated PG
• Blu-ray
• Comedy
• Family

Distinguishing Marks

• Deleted Scenes
• Featurettes
• Gag Reel
• BD-Live


• IMDb

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