Owen Wilson, Judy Greer, William H. Macy, Steve Coogan, Sam Elliott, Fergie, George Lopez, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Emma Stone, Kiefer Sutherland, Marlon Wayans and Lee Pace
Vince Di Meglio, Tim Rasmussen
20th Century Fox
Cowabarka!– More surfing dogs
There is an audience for Marmaduke.
Unfortunately, the Marmaduke audience isn't reading this review. They can't. They're five-years-old, and while they may be in the early throes of reading comprehension, I'm fairly confident in saying that I have no five-year-old readers.
There is a friend of mine, a wonderfully decent young woman who works hard and is seemingly normal in virtually every sense of the word...with one exception.
She loved Underdog...the movie. I'm not talking about the innocent, sweet and semi-charming cartoon of days past. I'm talking about the simply awful, condescending and unimaginative movie of 2007.
She will likely enjoy Marmaduke.
Jayne, if you're reading this, go see Marmaduke.
Among the rest of you, only diehard fans of Garfield 2, Beverly Hills Chihuahua and all 1,000 Air Buddies films (Yes, I'm exaggerating) ever created should even consider seeing Marmaduke in the theatre.
I sort of picture the 20th Century Fox execs sitting around the table following the initial screening of Marmaduke going "Well, we asked for a dog. We got a dog."
Marmaduke is a dog...a big dog. A ginormous, stinkin', freakin' huge dog.
Even if you're one of the 32 Americans who find the cartoon Marmaduke imaginative and creative, you're likely to be appalled by how much the film even falls short of the cartoon.
The story, ever so basic as it is, has the Winslow's (Lee Pace and Judy Greer) headed for California when Mr. Winslow gets a promotion selling boutique dog food created by an oddball drug freak (William H. Macy).
That IS the story. All of it. Not part of it. It's a sound byte story, much like this paragraph. It's choppy, disconnected and completely pointless. Much like this paragraph. This paragraph is marginally more entertaining mainly because it will end much more quickly.
Marmaduke is voiced by Owen Wilson, who trained for the film by getting all of America all weepy-eyed in Marley & Me. You will not get weepy-eyed in Marmaduke, however, you may have to wipe away the cobwebs that form over your eyes during the film's 88 minute run time.
The greatest joy this critic received out of watching Marmaduke was realizing that friend and fellow film critic Christopher Lloyd, a normally discerning moviegoer who is nearing fatherhood, would soon be forced to endure films such as this one time and time again for the sake of his child.
Now, THAT is funny.
Over the course of the film, which feels much longer than its 88 minutes, the Winslows and Marmaduke will have to adapt to their new surroundings. While this could be decent fodder for middle-of-the-road culture shock and humor, it's played for naught by director Tom Dey, who directed Wilson in his breakthrough film, Shanghai Noon. Instead, most of Marmaduke consists of fart jokes, dogs dancing, uncomfortable and stilted dialogue and more dogs darking. Marmaduke spends his time at a local dog park, the sort of joint that would make Rydell High proud with its perfectly coiffed Afghan cheerleaders and beach party mentality.
Of course, the dog park gives Dey the chance to toss in an inordinate amount of unnecessary celebrity voices, none of whom add virtually anything to the proceedings. Marmaduke will deal with Bosco (Kiefer Sutherland), the dog park's alpha-pooch, while becoming awestruck by Jezebel (Fergie), a glamour collie who is also Bosco's girlfriend. Of course, he will be ignoring the one doggie debutante who really loves him, Mazie (Emma Stone) and hanging out with a Russian Blue cat with a Mexican accent (George Lopez).
On the human side, Mr. Winslow will have to deal with office politics and the always challenging balance of family and work.
Ahem, both will learn lessons.
Marmaduke nearly received a "C" rating from this critic, mostly because it's so incredibly bland and inoffensive that it's really tough to actually call it a "bad" film in the usual sense of the word. However, the film's inept script (courtesy of License to Wed co-scripters Tim Rasmussen and Vince Di Meglio) is so devoid of ingenuity and Dey so completely wastes his talented cast that it's impossible to gift the film by calling it merely mediocre.
If flatulence jokes, dancing dogs, blatant product placement and boring action based upon a boring comic strip are your thing, then by all means check out Marmaduke, a virtual kaleidoscope of all things cinematically wasteful.
Marmaduke may actually be the first dog that even PETA agrees should be put to sleep.
© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic