Mark Reviews Movies


1 Star (out of 4)

Director: Tom Dey

Cast: Lee Pace, Judy Greer, William H. Macy, Caroline Sunshine, Finley Jacobsen, Glenn McCuen, the voices of Owen Wilson, Emma Stone, George Lopez, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Steve Coogan, Fergie, Kiefer Sutherland, Marlon Wayans, Damon Wayans Jr., Sam Elliott

MPAA Rating: PG (for some rude humor and language)

Running Time: 1:27

Release Date: 6/3/10

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Review by Mark Dujsik | June 3, 2010

Is there really a reason to insult the intelligence of children so? The argument could be made that short attention span of Marmaduke's narrative is meant to cater to its target audience, but it is so pieced together that argument only works if the target audience is dogs. Even they'd get bored after realizing the dogs on screen aren't responding to them.

Based on the comic strip about a big Great Dane who does things a dog does while its human owners say exactly what he's doing, Marmaduke tells the story of a big Great Dane who does things a dog does while he says exactly what he's doing. And serves as the family's counselor. And dances. And surfs.

Everything that occurs in the movie seems an afterthought. First, Marmaduke (voice of Owen Wilson) introduces us to his family. There's breadwinner Phil (Lee Pace), an ad man who gets a new job in California, working for an organic dog food company runóout of a local dog park, no lessóby Don Twombly (William H. Macy, in perhaps his slummiest of paycheck roles). Phil is obsessed with work and ignores the passive-aggressive ways his family lets him know he's ignoring them.

Wife Debbie (Judy Greer) apparently runs the house and little else. Daughter Barbara (Caroline Sunshine) talks to her friends on the phone and has a crush on the local surfer kid (Glenn McCuen). She only tells him what he wants to hear, and mom just smiles the smile of a woman who's given up on setting any kind of reasonable example. Son Brian (Finley Jacobsen) wants to skateboard, but dad wants him to play soccer. There's a baby, too, for no other reason except to say cute things intermittently.

Oh, and there's a cat (voice of George Lopez). Marmaduke forgets that in his long-winded prologue about characters who don't matter.

This isn't the story of the Winslows, although writers Tim Rasmussen and Vince Di Meglio forget that often and cram a whole lot of them and their dilemmas on screen. The role of the family, after all, is to watch Marmaduke do something a dog does and yell his name with extra vowels thrown in for good measure.

For example: When Marmaduke grabs mom's sandwich off the table, the proper response is, "Maaarmaaduuuuke, noooo!" This must be stated in as unconvincing a whine as is humanly possible for the effect for which director Tom Dey is going. That effect, by the way, is unclear, although it can only be interpreted as grating annoyance.

Marmaduke's story is that of an outsider, roaming the dog park and finding kindred spiritsólike Mazie (voice of Emma Stone), a fellow mutt who likes himóand enemiesólike Bosco (voice of Kiefer Sutherland), a pedigree who's a champion dog surfer with a big, old sense of purebred entitlement.

From there, the story is put together with the subtlety of assembling a kid's jigsaw puzzle with a sledgehammer. Marmaduke beats Bosco in a surf competition (Once Bosco mentions it, you know and dread its eventual arrival), becomes top dog, mopes around, runs away, and discovers that his owners will drop everything to find him.

The movie's verbal jokes are comprised of cultural references and puns. Although, does replacing certain syllables of words with "bark" actually constitute a pun? Whatever it is, it's used whenever possible.

So it goes with the rest of the gags. One loud, smelly dog fart isn't enough. One sequence of CG dogs dancing isn't enough. Even one call of "Who let the dogs out" isn't enough (Seriously, have you no shame?). In the department of small favors, at least there are no poop or puke jokes, and the special effects budget only allows for one scene of dogs surfing. Oh, and here's a random sinkhole for the climax.

The short attention span of Marmaduke guarantees that its hour-and-twenty-odd run time moves at exactly that pace, so any dog owners who watch with their canines as the pups revel in seeing their comrades on screen will suffer only that long.

Copyright © 2010 by Mark Dujsik. All rights reserved.

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