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Originally published Thursday, December 25, 2008 at 12:00 AM

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Movie review

"Marley & Me" is not so happy-go-puppy

"Marley & Me": Owen Wilson and Jennifer Aniston's new comedy is cute, bland and no, not as happy-go-puppy as the previews suggest.

Seattle Times movie critic

Movie review2 stars

"Marley & Me," with Owen Wilson, Jennifer Aniston, Eric Dane, Alan Arkin, Kathleen Turner. Directed by David Frankel, from a screenplay by Scott Frank and Don Roos, based on the book by John Grogan. 100 minutes. Rated PG for thematic material, some suggestive content and language. Several theaters.

It's holiday time, and while I hate to be a Scrooge, a little spoiler warning is necessary here for those who expect that "Marley & Me" will be a merry romp of puppified sweetness and light. You could certainly be forgiven for thinking this, based on the movie's cheery trailer, and several people have already asked me if this movie is a nice feel-good comedy. Um, no. Parts of it are — particularly any part that involves a puppy — but this movie ultimately becomes a Great Cycle of Life tear-jerker, complete with small sobbing children. You have been warned.

If you read John Grogan's mega-bestselling "Marley & Me," you'd know this; Grogan, a former journalist with The Philadelphia Inquirer, has spun several books out of the life of what he calls "the world's worst dog."

The movie begins with Grogan (Owen Wilson) and his new wife, Jenny (Jennifer Aniston), at the start of their life together, and follows them methodically through the arrival of Marley, three children and three ever-grander homes (the last one so vast you wonder what secret second career John's got going on the side).

Jenny gets postpartum depression, but it goes away. John has some career crises, but they go away. John and Jenny have some marital problems, but they go away. Marley swallows Jenny's necklace, but she gets it back, through means I would prefer not to describe. John has meetings with his editor (Alan Arkin), a mysterious mythical creature who lets him write about his dog and says things like "I'll double your salary." (No, my editor has never said this. Maybe I should get a dog.) Life goes on. The dog gets old. Etc.

The only reason to watch this extremely generic movie is the dog — or, rather, the 22 yellow Labs who play Marley at various stages of his life, all with charm, cuteness and destructive energy to burn. Director David Frankel ("The Devil Wears Prada," a film this resembles not a whit) turns the camera toward the canines as frequently as possible, but too often we're stuck with Wilson and Aniston's bland characters. You wonder if it might have been better to let sleeping dogs lie.

Moira Macdonald: 206-464-2725 or mmacdonald@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

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