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Movie Review: Marmaduke

June 4, 2010
By

Marmaduke and his owner Phil (Lee Pace)

Poor Marmaduke.  The (beloved?) comic strip has been a fixture in newspapers for almost 56 years, and now it has come to this, a live action movie targeted to an age demographic that ironically has never heard of him before.

Marmaduke (voiced by Owen Wilson) finds out along with the rest of his family that Dad Phil (Lee Pace) is up for a huge promotion with an organic pet food company, and if he takes it, the family can escape Kansas and move to the beach in California.  For reasons that are never explained, they are the first family in history to move into a larger house once they swap the midwest for the West Coast.

Usually people move from California to Kansas for the bigger home, but logic be damned. Wife Debbie (Judy Greer) dutifully supports her husband, even though her teen aged children are traumatized by the prospect of leaving their friends.

Marmaduke and his cat family member Carlos (voiced by George Lopez) familiarize themselves with California by watching reruns of The OC. Once they are relocated, Marmaduke meets the locals at the dog park.  Surprise, they represent the same stereotypes that teenagers are lumped into in High School.

There is the bully Bosco (voiced by Kiefer Sutherland), his gal Jezebel (Stacey “Fergie” Ferguson), the bubble headed blondes, the jocks, etc.  Marmaduke also meets a sweet Australian Shephard named Mazie (Emma Stone) who shows him the ropes and welcomes him into her little mutt pack with open paws.

Marmaduke, Mazie and the mutt pack

Marmaduke aspires to be one of the cool kids (the pedigrees), and leaves Mazie and company behind for the greener pastures of the popular dogs.  He gains his popularity through deceitful means, which comes back to bite him in the hindquarters later.

Mazie, of course, is smitten with Marmaduke, who is oblivious to her feelings.  After he has a falling out with the popular crowd, he finally sees that she is better suited for him than the glamorous Jezebel, who he had been pursuing.  Gosh, you’ve never seen this before, have you?

There is also another subplot about Marmaduke feeling neglected at home, and running away.  This allows for the tired and cliché ending we’ve seen in countless other films where the humans realize just how much the animal means to their family, and they all live happily ever after.

For such a silly movie, the film makers were able to snag a killer cast.  Kiefer Sutherland, Fergie, William H. Macy, Steve Coogan, Christoher Mintze-Plasse, Sam Elliot, Damon Wayans, Emma Stone, Owen Wilson, Judy Greer, George Lopez, and Lee Pace all show up as either a voice, or one of the humans.

This film is mediocre at best, but it does throw a little sucker punch at the end that will cause many dog-loving parents to mist up a bit (myself included.)

I believe that children’s movies are like adult movies, there are satisfying, high quality movies, and there are popcorn movies.  This is kid’s popcorn movie, and I think these types of movies have as much right to exist as Prince of Persia does.

My two girls (aged 7 and 5) loved it, and that’s what the film is going for.  After the movie, I told my daughter to tell the screen rep what her favorite part was.  ”I liked when Marmaduke tooted in bed,” she said.  Not exactly a high point in my parenting career, but that really tells you all you need to know about Marmaduke.

Rating 2.5/5

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