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Director: Tom Dey
Cast: Owen Wilson, George Lopez, Stacy Ferguson, Kiefer Sutherland, William H. Macy, Lee Pace, Judy Greer, Jeremy Piven, Ron Perlman, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Steve Coogan, David Walliams, Finley Jacobsen, Emma Stone, Caroline Sunshine, Damon Wayans Jr.
RunTime: 1 hr 27 mins
Released By: 20th Century Fox
Rating: PG

Official Website: http://www.themarmadukemovie.com/

Opening Day: 3 June 2010


For Phil and Debbie Winslow, moving their family from Kansas to the O.C. is a big deal. For their enormous Great Dane 'Marmaduke', (voiced by Owen Wilson) however, the move means a whole new way of life. It's chaos at home and awkward at work as the Winslows struggle to control their angsty teenage canine.

Movie Review:

So Hollywood has decided that we need yet another talking dog movie- but wait, haven’t we already had enough of those? Apparently not, since it has deigned to turn Brad Anderson’s famous newspaper comic strip character Marmaduke into a live-action movie featuring a computer-generated talking Great Dane- with the voice of Owen Wilson as the titular character no less.

Thank goodness for the presence of Owen Wilson, we say. Even hidden behind an oblong face with floppy, triangular ears, there’s no holding back the distinctive playfulness and vivaciousness of the naturally talented comedian. Some of the film’s best laugh-out-loud moments come courtesy of Wilson’s wisecracking, and it is in these moments that his character’s concomitant lively and light-hearted personality is just too delightful to resist.

Unfortunately, there are just not enough of these moments. Sure, the brilliant introduction that draws attention to what it means to stand out and be different from the crowd is witty and hilarious- as well too the largely amusing first half that banks heavily on the mischievous antics of Marmaduke, and those of his fellow canines hanging out in high-school like cliques in a dog park. But it is in its second half that the film quickly unravels- no thanks to a lacklustre screenplay by Tim Rasmussen and Vince Di Meglio (co-writers too of the similarly uneven Robin Williams’ comedy License to Wed).

Indeed, both writers seem so eager to rehash the plotlines of other similarly-themed family comedies that they have quite literally bitten off more than they can chew (pun intended). On one hand, they want to tell a story of how Marmaduke’s eagerness to fit in with the in-crowd (to quote the film, ‘to be a pedigree, not a mutt’) causes him to forsake his true friends and become the dog he isn’t. On the other, they also want to tell a story of how Marmaduke’s owner, Phil Winslow (Lee Pine), gradually loses touch with his family as he chooses what he thinks is best for his kids- his teenage daughter Barbara and younger son Brian- and devotes more time to his work than to his family.

Neither the stories nor their themes of being true to oneself or the importance of family will be unfamiliar to audiences- but not only are they not original, they are also disappointingly undercooked. The mechanical storytelling becomes even more apparent in the film’s latter half, as it strains to bring closure to both these almost parallel story threads in an unexciting finale. In fact, the inherent stodginess of the lazy plotting is so obvious that even director Tom Dey’s (of Shanghai Noon) best efforts to keep the film moving along at a zippy pace fall flat.

And that is too bad really- for “Marmaduke” does have good things going for it. The visual effects on display here by Rhythm and Hues are excellent, especially in animating the facial movements of each of the animals as they speak. Credit also goes to the star-studded supporting voice cast, including George Lopez, Sam Elliott, Steve Coogan, Fergie, Kiefer Sutherland, Marlon Wayans and Damon Wayans, for giving each of their characters, no matter how small, a unique personality.

Ultimately though, this mutt is undone by its own slobber. Never mind that it stays predictably in family-friendly territory- what leaves much to be desired is its slapdash storytelling that does no favours for what is otherwise a mildly amusing affair thanks to Owen Wilson. Of course, Wilson doesn’t need a talking dog movie to be funny, so it stands to reason that “Marmaduke” is mostly another unnecessary addition to the genre. Time to muzzle the mutt, anyone?

Movie Rating:

(Just because the dog is bigger doesn’t mean the laughs are better- and Marmaduke is only mildly amusing thanks to Owen Wilson)

Review by Gabriel Chong


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