Call me a soppy sausage, but I'm a big sucker for doggie films. Normally the thought of a movie starring Jennifer Aniston and Owen Wilson would leave me shrugging my shoulders, but throw a golden labrador into the equation and I'm stuck. Based on the 2006 non-fiction memoir by journalist John Grogan, this movie truly underlines how owning a dog can colour one's life, the pleasures that loving a dog can engender, and the eventual heartbreak that comes with losing one's furry friend. As Grogan wrote, "Give a dog your heart and he'll give you his".
This film made a packet of money and probably not for the above reasons. For some factors which escape me, Aniston has become one of the more bankable actresses and is normally able to "open" a movie, even when it is the direst of 'rom-coms', sort of like a sunnier Sandra Bullock if you like. Wilson is to my mind rather easier to warm to in his normally lightweight way -- the epitome of the laid-back surfer dude. In this film, however, they both play rather more grown-up roles, and the film which does have its chortling moments -- normally involving the dog Marley -- is not really a comedy in the modern sense, full of raunchy innuendos or gross-out behaviour. Rather it is a family drama showing how life procedes and how a family dog can be there to underline many memories.
Wilson originally purchases the labrador pup as a present for Aniston to take her mind off brooding for a family, partly so that he can fulfill his desire to be a serious foreign journalist, but children do follow and he finds his calling as a humorous columnist, often chronicling the exploits of the mischievious Marley. Marley is a destructive, unruly furniture-chomper, "the worst dog in the world" says his master, thrown out of obedience-training class by the nearly unrecognizable and very chubby Kathleen Turner. When the couple leave him with a dog-sitter after the loss of their first child in the womb, they return to a wrecked house and a sitter who describes him as a devil with a dog's face! But like the Grogans, you can't help loving him through thick and thin. Anyone who has grown up with a dog knows too well how it can impact upon one's life by sharing it. When the time comes in this film for the aging and ill animal to be put down (there is no easier way of saying this), there is not a dry eye in the house. Talk about "chokey"!!!
Shortly before watching this movie, I saw a minor Disney flick from 2004, "Chestnut - Hero of Central Park" which told the unlikely tale of two adopted orphans, Mackenzie Vega and scene-stealer Abigail Breslin, smuggling their puppy into their new home -- not only an apartment block which bans dogs but also one where there new father is allergic. How they manage to conceal his presence as he grows into a ginormous great dane, how the girls and their comic Spanish-speaking nanny exercise him in Central Park by sneaking him in and out of the building covered by huge suitcase, and how the animal eventually saves the day by catching some fiendish burglars, is all part of the totally unbelievable fun. But I did admit upfront what a sucker I can be. In fact, thinking back on all manner of silly films like "Benji" and "Bingo" my movie buff credentials fall by the wayside when I see a 'boofy' face and a big lolling tongue.