For anyone who thinks that a dog is just a dog, then this might not be the movie for you. But for those who appreciate the 'man's best friend' sentiment, then 'Marley and Me' will really strike a chord. Based on John Grogan's novel of the same name, it's a tale of a pet, with real personality, establishing himself in the heart of a family, sharing their ups and down and adding to the adventure in their lives.
We meet John Grogan (Wilson) and his wife Jen (Aniston) on their wedding night, following them through their early days of marriage, up to point where John decides that a dog would be a good way to postpone having kids for a while. Enter Marley, his surprise birthday present for his wife and also the most active, troublesome dog you're ever likely to meet, proving that children would have been a lot less work. There's nothing that can't be eaten according to Marley – shoes, jewellery, you name it. But for all his strength and stubbornness, he's also an affectionate creature and good company when times are tough.
'Marley and Me' has definite comedy value in places (like Marley's first day at doggie school) but it is mostly about the drama of everyday life, like coping with cranky children and settling for a career out of habit rather than a love of the job. And at the close, for lots of reasons, it's a real tearjerker (especially if you have a love of animals or memories of a childhood pet).
Owen Wilson is really in his comfort zone here, proving yet again that he does drama so much better than he does over-the-top slapstick comedy. He brings a really believable charm to the role of John Grogan, as he struggles to settle on a career path and gets bogged down by what his life has become. Aniston also proves worthy of her star here, turning in an understated and very real performance as the put-about mother, who didn't really see life's changes coming until it was too late. There are decent peripheral performances also from Alan Arkin, as a moany newspaper editor, and 'Grey's Anatomy's Eric Dane, as the sleazy best friend (he might as well be Dr Mark Sloan here but he plays the player well).
'Marley and Me' is the kind of movie that reminds you what life is all about. A simple story, well-told.