One of my very first cinema-going memories is from the time I saw Beethoven in the Clydebank UCI; a screening which had a fifteen minute interval in the middle where the audience could meet and greet two large St Bernards at the front of the theatre. It was possibly one of the most exciting experiences of my life (assuming the hyperventilation was not indeed allergen-induced), the likes of which I assumed could never be matched by any other dog fronted film.
Homeward Bound 2: Lost in San Francisco came close, Cats and Dogs elevated the canines in the age old war against their feline foes, but what I really wanted was the unity and heartfelt warmth as felt between man and dog. Marley and Me answered all my calls, like a slobbering Labrador to a squeaky toy (and if you’re enjoying that imagery then get in line now).
Marley and Me features the bronzed, blonde Owen Wilson and Jennifer Aniston (like walking, talking paint-charts of golden perfection) as a journalistic couple juggling the trials and tribulations of married life whilst trying to gain control over their troublesome pooch. As the movie’s an adaptation of a book, and the book is compiled of newspaper columns, and the columns consist of glimpses into John Grogan’s life as a dog owner and all-round family man the film can begin to feel rather bitty at parts. It’s basically just the life story of some dude who has some stuff going on, does things, doesn’t do some other things, and all the while has a blonde loved one chew up furniture and pee around his house (the dog that is, not Aniston.)
Despite the film’s occasional dalliance in slapstick jiggery pokery its real-life basis keeps it just on the right edge of sentimental. Minus the chewed up sofas and piles of poo, the themes underlying life with Marley such as family tragedy, the anxieties of growing older and the realisation of missed opportunities keep your eyes brimmed over at just the right parts: the final half hour especially is a tearduct workout for anyone with a soul.