But, alas, recent flicks such as 'Cats and Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore', 'Beverly Hills Chihuahua' and 'Underdog', highlight that when there is a weak storyline our CGI furry little friends can take only take us so far. It is fair to say that 'Marmaduke' does not have the most gripping canine plot, but its underlying sentimental message and ability to pull at the viewer's heartstrings make this Fox production fun to watch.
This American comic strip spin-off follows the adventures of the clumsy but lovable 200lb Great Dane (Wilson), who struggles to fit in with his four-legged teenage chums. When 'the fam' moves from Kansas to Orange County, Marmaduke hopes that he will finally be accepted in his new surroundings. Fortunately, this oversized pooch is not entirely on his lonesome, as his best pal and 'step-bro' Carlos (Lopez), a Russian Blue Cat, tags along for the adventure. The unexpected friendship between the pair and their constant scheming provides some of the film's biggest laughs while remaining heartfelt.
It is fascinating how the human-canine relationships in this movie are just as touching as the dog park dynamics. In an attempt to help his family make the transition from the Midwest to The OC, sunglasses-wearing Marmaduke ends up causing more mischief and trouble. His owner Phil (Pace) finds it difficult to get his new leash [sic] on life underway in his job as the marketing chief for an organic pet food company. It doesn't help that his boss Don Twombly (Macy) is an over-the-top man whose love for dogs drives him to insist on business meetings in the park.
Marmaduke doesn't realise that there's a dog hierarchy in the park, but he soon discovers that he's at the bottom of the dog chain. His lust for the lovely Jezebel (Fergie) places him in a complicated love triangle with the park's 'Alpha Dog', Bosco (Sutherland). In an effort to become the most popular pooch, Marmaduke takes his friendship with Mazie (Stone) for granted, and fails to acknowledge that she is attracted to him. There is a clear message for kids here about trying to be something you're not, and about being loyal to the friends you already have.
Although Marmaduke misses the magic of 'Marley and Me', it does have its moments of amusement and charm. Kids will no doubt take pleasure in the antics of this slobbering Great Dane and the lessons he uncovers about being true to himself. For those who are not dog lovers or are cynical of your average feel-good family film, this could be quite painful viewing. It is clear that director Dey knows the demographic for this light-hearted flick (anyone 10 and under) and he gives them just what they want (easily identifiable jokes, repetitive puns and simple storylines). If taken with a pinch of salt, adults may just about excuse the one-liners and predictability of this harmless movie - all in the name of a bit of fun and, above all, adorable animals.