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Overall Rating

Awesome: 0%
Worth A Look: 6.67%
Average: 0%
Pretty Bad: 40%
Total Crap53.33%

2 reviews, 3 user ratings

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by Peter Sobczynski

"Yesterday’s Papers"
1 stars

I would like to begin this review of “Marmaduke,” the big-screen version of the comic strip that you most likely didn’t even realize was still running, with a single basic and fundamental question: why would anyone want to make a movie version of “Marmaduke” in the first place? Okay, from a practical standpoint, I understand why such a thing exists--after making millions and millions of dollars off of the “Garfield” and “Alvin & the Chipmunks” movies, the people at Fox clearly realize that there is a lot of money to be had in family-oriented films featuring talking animals. (You know that if they could have figured out a way to justify having the beast in “Marley & Me” speak, they would have done so in an instant.) My question, however, is why bother with spending the money to acquire the rights to such a forgettable property in the first place. After all, the character doesn’t really have what anyone might consider to be a rabid fan base (no pun intended), he doesn’t really do much of anything in the comic strip of note and is so utterly anonymous that I suspect that most people over the years have been mixing him up with Clifford the Big Red Dog in the same way that I have. If the producers had just invented a big dog character and made a movie around it, it is entirely likely that it would have still turned out more or less exactly like this--a dumb piece of junk about which the nicest things you can say are that it is too dull to get too offended at and which at least contains a couple of funny moments along the way. In other words, it contains approximately twice the laughs of “Sex and the City 2” and half the number of bitches.

Marmaduke, for those of you who have been avoiding the comics ever since the demise of “Dondi” or the appearance of “Sally Forth,” is a Great Dane who is really big and who eats a lot--luckily, it is a one-panel strip so we never get to see the inevitable result of what happens when a giant dog eats a lot. Since that is kind of a weak characterization even for a kiddie movie, the mutt has been outfitted here with the voice of Owen Wilson and has been conceived as a laid-back teenager who just wants to do his thing and be mellow and whatnot. Things change when his owners--Anonymous Workaholic Dad (Lee Pace), Anonymous Stay-At-Home Mom (Judy Greer), Anonymous Bratty Teen Daughter (Caroline Sunshine), Anonymous Pre-Adolescent Son (Finley Jacobsen) and Anonymous Adorable Toddler (Mandy and Milana Haines)--and housecat Carlos (George Lopez) move from bucolic Kansas to the hustle and bustle of Los Angeles. At first, Marmaduke is kinda bummed out by the whole move but winds up meeting a group of wacky mutts at the local dog park, led by Mazie (Emma Stone), who befriend him and educate him on the various cliques. The most feared and exclusive clique of all are the purebreds, led by the fearsome Bosco (Keifer Sutherland), and when Marmaduke winds up making eyes at Bosco’s girlfriend, Jezebel (Stacy Ferguson), the battle lines are drawn. Through circumstances too silly to get into--I seem to recall a surfing contest for dogs being involved somehow as well as the fake torture of the cat (a truly ugly scene mitigated only slightly by the fact that it is a cat with the voice of George Lopez)--Marmaduke winds up becoming the most popular dog around, wins the heart of Jezebel and ditches all his former friends. Inevitably, his new friends turn on him after trashing his house during a party, Jezebel dumps him (didn’t see that one coming) and, having learned valuable lessons about Being True To Yourself and Never Dating People Named Jezebel, Marmaduke tries to make things right again with his family and friends.

This might strike most observers as a story premise that might seem a bit thin for even a half-hour TV special, let alone a feature film. Then again, how much story could you possibly hope to mine out of a comic strip that is nothing more than a series of one-panel blackout gags in which 90% of the punch lines involve the hero either being too big for his surroundings or wolfing down a metric ton of kibble? My guess is that once screenwriters Tim Rasmussen & Vince De Meglio sat down to begin writing the screenplay, this inescapable fact finally dawned on them. Instead of trying to come up with a story framework that might have been more suitable for the big screen--why not have Marmaduke and Co. go off to the West Coast after winning a contest to star in a remake of “Digby--The Biggest Dog in the World” and use that as a springboard to spoof all the talking animal movies of late?--they have given us a ho-hum helping of the same old silliness and when they realized that few people would have in a film depicting the growing pains and emotional crises of a teenage dog (and it is weird that they would stress the teen dog angle since there is not a teenager alive who would be caught dead going to this film , they decided to fill the remaining time with a number of subplots and gimmicks that are, if possible, even less interesting than the main story. Anonymous Dad is so consumed at work with pleasing his new boss (William H. Macy. . .yes, William H. Macy) that he winds up ignoring his family until he eventually learns the error of his ways. Anonymous Teen Daughter is all bummed about having to move to California (yes, she may be the first teen girl since Dorothy in “The Wizard of Oz” to prefer Kansas to the big city) but eventually comes around when she catches the eye of a hunky young heartthrob whose looks could be described as either Beiberish or Beiberesque. Anonymous Pre-Adolescent Son is all bummed out because he doesn’t have the nerve to tell his Dad that he has been skipping the soccer practices he was signed up for in order to hang out at the local skater park--somehow this winds up happily as well, presumably with the kid signing on to appear in a new Larry Clark film. (As for Mom and the moppet, the movie never quite gets around to showing them overcoming their various travails but that is what deleted scenes sections on DVDs are for, right?) There is also a big action climax that comes out of nowhere that involves a broken water main, a sinkhole and various heroics that save everyone’s collective bacon once they are uploaded to You Tube. Inevitably, there are also a bunch of pop-culture jokes and references that will most likely sail over the heads of younger viewers while vaguely annoying the older ones--there are references to everything from “The O.C.” to “Almost Famous” to “One From the Heart,” a closing musical number where all the dogs dance to “What I Like About You” and the film even has the cojones to drop in a clip from none other than “Old Yeller.” (Alas, it doesn’t have the nerve to replicate the ending of “Old Yeller” or I might have been a little more favorable towards it..)

“Marmaduke” is a really bad movie but if there is a silver lining in this particularly shaggy cloud, it is the fact that it is so utterly innocuous and instantly forgettable that it is hard to get that upset over it--I cannot imagine that anyone involved with this project looked upon it as anything other than a quick and easy cash grab and the palpable lack of ambition is less depressing in the long run than if you actually felt that these people were genuinely trying to make a good movie. Additionally, there are a couple of off-beat bits of humor that come from out of nowhere that were so odd and absurd that I did find myself momentarily chuckling. In one, a Chihuahua pops out of its owner’s purse and insists “In my country, I was a lawyer!” and in another, we are informed that one of the purebreds speak six different languages, “including gopher.” When these moments occurred, I genuinely laughed and for a brief second or two, I found myself thinking that maybe “Marmaduke” might turn itself around and become something worthwhile after all. Inevitably, that is about the time that the big mutt comes back into the picture to let loose with a massive flatulence attack and stink everything up once again. And since that seems pretty much like a perfect metaphor to describe the entire film, I think we can end this review here and move on.

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originally posted: 06/04/10 14:03:12
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User Comments

10/19/11 Magic Marmaduke is an asshole. 1 stars
6/05/10 Ronald Holst If you likeed Scobbie do You will love this film A little to hyped ! 4 stars
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  04-Jun-2010 (PG)
  DVD: 31-Aug-2010


  DVD: 31-Aug-2010

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