Friday, December 26, 2008

My “Marley & Me” review.

You know how the worst thing that can happen to a movie is over-anticipation? No matter how good it is, you thought the movie would be better and it takes away from the experience. Well, my expectations have never been higher for a movie than they were for “Marley & Me”.

In fact, everything that can doom a movie was lined up to ruin “Marley & Me.” A, I read and loved the book, so of course the movie is going to be a let down. And, B, I read all of the rave reviews, so expectations were sky high. And, C,I am not a fan of movies that make me cry.

And yet “Marley & Me” still blew me away it was so good. It blew me away. (In the spirit of full disclosure, I admit I am a full-blown Labrador nut-job and am probably biased as a result) 

Yes, if you have followed the commercials and the trailers, like I have, you have seen a lot of the funny scenes, but there are many, many more. And they don’t even begin to capture the heart-wrenching poignant scenes. Alan Arkin was one of my favorite actors before this movie and now I don’t even know what category in which to put him. Arkin is like an honorary family member.

Please, I am begging you, if you are, like me, put off by movies that make you cry, you would be cheating yourself from a wonderful experience if you didn’t see “Marley & Me.” That is what this movie was for me, far more of an experience than a movie.

"Marley & Me" is also proof that movie critics have their heads so far up their own pseudo-intellectual asses that they have no idea what real people like as "Rotten Tomatoes" only gave it 52 % positives.  Snotty, mean-spirited a-holes are pre-wired not to like dog movies as even "Old Yeller"and "My Dog Skip" got mixed reviews when they came out.  But many of these snarky critic tools objected that "Marley & Me" was too emotionally wrenching revealing the problem was in the critic's lack of depth and not the movie's depth.  

Although I will say the critics who liked "Marley & Me" raved about it. (New rule: if you have more cats than friends, do not review dog movies) And if you prefer the dazzle, sparkle and flash of movies like, oh say, "The Wizard of Oz" or the big production of "Mamma Mia" as I think many movie critics do, over candor, honesty and heart, than maybe "Marley & Me" is not for you. 

Recently I wrote a list of things in here that Hollywood thinks happen in real life but never ever do: parking spot open in front of the crowded restaurant, sex in the kitchen, droll, sarcastic waiters making pithy remarks, harmless exploding fireballs.

None of that fake Hollywood filler happens in “Marley & Me.” Its integrity and honesty is remarkable, especially for Hollywood. God bless whoever on this project decided to stay so true to John Grogan’s great book.

And Jennifer Anniston and Owen Wilson were absolutely spectacular. And what made them so spectacular was that they weren’t trying to be spectacular. On bad movies you have to try and remember that they are trying to get you to believe what is happening on the screen is real. “Marley & Me” makes it hard to believe what is happening on the screen isn’t real. And the credit for that goes to Anniston and Wilson and the director, David Frankel, who clearly is a true dog lover.

Being a cranky and cynical bastard, I have a list of known Hollywood douche-bag actors who, if they are in a movie, I won’t see it: Stephen Segal, Val Kilmer, Jim Belushi, Tom Arnold, etc.

Now, thanks to “Marley & Me,” I have a more positive list of actors who I will go see whatever movie they are in and it consists of Jennifer Anniston, Owen Wilson and Alan Arkin.

I knew I would fall in love with Marley, but I didn’t expect to also fall for John and Jennifer Grogan. And yet, in full candor, there is a fair amount of yuppie whining from both about having to work at having a great family and a great career that I don't remember reading in the book. 

But that is my only complaint. 

To call this movie a tear-jerker is to point out how clichés, like tear-jerker which are used by lame movie critics, are so trite and ineffective, just like the lame movie critics themselves. This movie is a soul-wrench and, as anyone who has a soul and has had their soul wrenched knows, a good wrenching is both magical and good for the soul.

For my kind and lovely wife, Virginia, and our amazing and kind and beautiful daughter, Ann Caroline and me, “Marley & Me” was also a love letter to how rich our lives with two lovable clown Labradors, Kasey and Wrigley, has been. (You should have seen A.C. dote on our doggies when she got home. Fussed- over beasts is what they was)

There is one scene where Owen Wilson’s character, the author John Grogan, runs into his babe-hound buddy whose writing career has taken off as he has remained steadfastly and actively single. They exchange updates. The babe hound’s career has taken off to the stratosphere as the proud dad whips out a snapshot of his beautiful wife, his three wonderful kids and his crazy dog.

As the old friends say goodbye you could sense the deep sadness Wilson’s character felt for his friend for his having missed out on all the rich experiences he has known. And yet you can almost hear the single guy mutter “poor bastard” under his breath for Wilson’s character. The amazing thing is that both types of people, devoted family folks, and Peter-Pan-syndrome single types, will love this movie.

Not to overdue it, but if you don’t like this movie, you need to get a soul.

“Marley & Me” shows in a way no other movie has, with the exception of “My Dog Skip” and “Old Yeller”, how dogs, no matter how misbehaved, are just furry angelic devoted family members who weasel their way deep inside your heart and they stay there. Even after they’re gone.

God bless you clearance puppy.