I should have known this Hollywood version of the human-animal bond would come up lame.

On the cover of the DVD, a treacly Marley-as-a-pup pic spoke exactly to the kind of movie I was about to consume: one so heart-strummingly sanitized that even the puppy’s infantile “willy” was airbrushed out––apparently so as not to offend my delicate American sensibilities.

Things devolved from there.

In case you’re one of the few animal lovers who hasn’t already seen this flick, you might want to skip my review. Why? Because I know plenty of reasonable and intelligent people who really liked it. (I just don’t happen to be one of them.) And I wouldn’t want to ruin it for you. 

Should you fall into this category, haven’t read the book, and persist in reading this, here’s the basic premise: Boy marries girl. Girl wants baby. Boy doesn’t want baby––not yet. Boy gets girl a dog, instead. Dog becomes horribly-behaved but well-loved family member. Human babies are born. Social mobility ensues. Dog gets sick. Dog gets sick again and dies. 


Though Owen Wilson can make me laugh on occasion, his not-so-delicate, loser-man comedy falls flat in “Marley and Me” almost as often as his dog-challenged character does. Jennifer Aniston, to her discredit, reprises her same tired role as America’s sassy-but-sensitive sweetheart (which, for the life of me I don’t get since I could never stand any of the characters on “Friends”).

Then there’s the pain of watching an endless series of stupid human tricks couched in poor dog training clichés. How many leash-dragging, inappropriate-crapping, couch-chewing escapades does it take to get to the center of a Tootsie pop? Three would be  a blessing. A hundred is tiresome, at best.

But the worst? The veterinary turn of events. 

Since this is a veterinary blog, you might expect I’d want to have my say on this front. And you’d be right. I was floored by the “Lassie Come Home” campiness that attended the illness and death of the dog his family had “grown to love,” in spite of his obnoxiously bad behavior. 

No surgery for his bloat (“gastric dilatation volvulus,” in which the stomach turns, thereby cutting off its own circulation). No mention of treatment beyond euthanasia. For me, purely evocative of just another clueless or cash-hoarding owner unwilling or unable to treat his older dog’s ills. 

This isn’t entertainment. I can get this mad just by working ER (which is why I no longer do it). 

Add to this the embarrassingly transparent ploy for tears and the flick’s a bust. Did I cry? You betcha! Would you expect anything less from a Hollywood movie built to pander to American emotions? It’s what the biz does best. A dubious kudos to Hollywood for my five minute crying jag.

Upshot? As an animal lover, I couldn’t have felt more condescended to unless they’d remade Black Beauty with a cookie-cutter plot, inhospitable characters and a bloat instead of a barn fire...but then, I think they did.