Leaving the cold winters and snow of Michigan behind them, John and Jenny Grogan head for the beaches of Miami and a small, but pleasant enough, cottage. Both John and Jenny are reporters and the pair end up being hired by competing newspapers. Unfortunately for John's ego (and pay cheque), Jenny ends up at the Palm Beach Post with a prominent position with some front page assignments whilst over at the South Florida Sun-Sentinel John is left with the obituaries and two paragraph articles about fires and missing animals. Still, at least his boss sees his potential, plus he has a new friend in Sebastian - a bit of a high flyer, and ladies man, and whose stories make John ever so slightly jealous.
So when Jenny starts to become broody Sebastian suggests they should get themselves a dog. Not only will that suppress Jenny's desire for a child but it will give the pair a good idea as to whether they're ready to raise a family. Sensing that this is a good idea, John takes Jenny to see a litter of Labrador puppies. Naturally, the pair are instantly smitten and they pick out one of puppies. Unfortunately, Jenny is called away for work so it's left to John to pick up their new friend. Travelling back to the house John contemplates names - "Bob" sounds likes a good name, plus he can become more refined in his later years as "Robert". But, thinking about the great reggae singer, the opts for the name "Marley".
However, it's not long before their adorable little puppy transforms into a highly-strung, thunder storm adverse, boisterous and uncontrollable fully grown troublemaker. From being expelled from obedience school, inexplicably chewing through dry walls, taking a bite out of the sofa and completely ignoring ever conceivable command known to man and dog, Marley causes absolute chaos wherever he goes. Even a visit to the vet to become a bit little less of a dog than before doesn't help quell his boisterous nature. Still, despite the mayhem he generates, Marley sees the expanding Grogan family through the ups and downs of life and the countless challenges that come with it - even helping John's career by providing him with hilarious tales (or should that be tails?!) for his increasingly popular newspaper column.
There's bound to be plenty of films that find their way to the Blu-Ray format that really shouldn't be there. The format should really be saved for those big budget, special effect laden masterpieces that Hollywood turns out once in a blue moon. However, Marley & Me goes someway to address this with a simply sumptuous and sharp 1080p transfer that does more to promote Miami as holiday destination than any oversized mouse could ever manage. With a massive range of colours on offer, the many beaches and water side locations look ever so inviting with bright oranges, yellows, blues and greens all out in force. They even manage to shine in the night time scenes - possibly too much with some contrast levels that border a tad overdone. Even the cute puppies and a fully grown Marley are so well defined that you could almost reach out and pat them on the head. Naturally, given that this a recent release, there are no issues to report with either artifacting or print damage.
The audio is presented as a DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio track. Unfortunately, Marley & Me doesn't really require anything particularly dynamic in the sound department so it ends up being a front heavy mix. Still, that is by no means a gripe as it's still a good one. The dialogue is crisp and clear in the centre channel whilst the stereo front channels help to enhance the musical score and the frequent incidents created courtesy of Marley. The musical score is reasonably prominent, and it's really the only part of the audio mix that finds itself in any of the effect speakers. But I guess that's the sort of thing you come expect from a comedy film - and in this guise it's certainly nothing to be ashamed off. All in all, it's an audio mix that is a perfect fit.
The menu is pleasantly scored and animated with a cute little puppy wandering across the screen and wagging its tail. As seems to be the case these days, whilst the menu animation is good enough, the actual menu selections are presented in a small, near unreadable, font whilst the extras are listed on a long menu that requires lots of scrolling through. Whilst there's no doubting that the world of high-definition has brought much to the land of home entertainment, the actual design and interactivity of the menu systems offer very little above the standard DVD menu systems. Never the less, the extras which are offered here bring some value for money to the package - whilst others should be avoided.
The eight minute Finding Marley featurette looks at the twenty-two Labradors that were used during the films production. We're shown the various dogs used throughout the film, including dogs of different ages and temperament. I'm always surprised at just how obedient trained animals can be and even a little bit of training can go along way - as one locally cast Marley goes on to prove. Only the lack of interviews with Owen Wilson and Jennifer Aniston are the real surprise. I guess they didn't like the idea of being outshone by a Labrador and the pair stormed off in a hissy fit. Never the less, if you like your animals, this is a good featurette worthy of a look in.
If you thought that the film was long enough then you'll be surprised to discover that there's over twenty-five minutes worth of Deleted Scenes to plough your way through - either in one sitting or individually selected from the menu. Fortunately, director David Frankel is on hand to provide an optional commentary (it's just a pity he's not there to provide a yack track on the main feature too). As you'd expect, the majority of the scenes have been cut for timing purposes, or where the obvious is being stated or repeated. It's an interesting collection of deleted scenes - with an equally interesting commentary and it's worth a watch just to see a cut montage scene containing Gloria Estefan along with other missing people who must have been mightily peeved at their lack of screen time (I wonder if they still get paid the same amount?!).
In the eight minute Breaking the Golden Rule featurette, along with plenty of behind-the-scenes material and clips from the film, director David Frankel, Owen Wilson and Jennifer Aniston are all on hand to talk about how wonderful everything and everyone is and how you should avoid acting with children and animals. It's your typical back slapping exercise, but at least the original John and Jenny Grogan make a fleeting appearance. Next up is the extremely annoying two minutes worth of On Set with Marley : Dog of All Trades featurette. In it Marley is "interviewed" about the set and his work colleagues. Not the most exciting of features, but something that might appeal to the children.
If in the five minute Gag Reel you're expecting dogs refusing to act, peeing all over the floor or generally sleeping on the job, then you're in for a big disappointment. Apart from one little misdemeanour that has its own featurette, the twenty-two Labradors behave impeccably and we're only left with a group of clips of the actors forgetting their lines or missing their cue. Hardly side splitting stuff that'll have Harry Hill quaking in his boots. However, Marley wasn't always perfect on set, so after a little "accident" that occurred on set during filming, the two minute When Not to Pee featurette looks at how the animal trainers went about trying to get Marley to recreate his shame.
As you'd expect from most films involving animals, some people are dumb enough to go out and get themselves a similar animal and then get bored and the poor thing either gets abandoned or flushed down the toilet. This has already happened for Babe the pig and Marlon the Clown Fish, so I expect Marley to do the same. However, although this is mentioned, the five minute Adopting a Pet featurette spends its time suggesting that any willing Labrador owners should go to their local dog rescue centre instead of an expensive breeder. Whilst it's a worthy feature to highlight the great service they offer, they should have really spent more time informing those gullible viewers to steer clear of even thinking about getting a pet until they know they can care for it.
Finally, the Blu-ray format is on hand to show off some of its own tricks - it's just a pity they're rather boring, with a rather rubbish Dog Training Trivia Track Picture-n-Picture feature plus a Dog Training 101 feature. Once enabled, both features will either pop up Marley giving training tips or a video from a professional explaining how to train your pet. Hardly inspiring stuff. Still, if your Blu-ray player doesn't support the Picture-n-Picture facility (or you'd rather watch the training tips separately) then they can also be viewed in isolation.
I'd been aware of John Grogan's book for quite a few years now and after reading a serialisation in a daily newspaper, and also being a pet owner, I decided that in order to retain my manly exterior I should avoid both reading the book and watching the film. So I was rather surprised to receive a copy for review - even more so when the title was supplied on Blu-ray (not the sort of medium to be associated with releases such as this). So armed with tissues (no, not for that reason you perverts!) and a girlfriend who'll cry at a washing powder advert, I settled down to watch and review with an open mind. But with humans being a long living species, and with a desperate hope that you won't be around when your flesh and blood dies, when it comes to your own a pet it's something that can't be avoided. And after loosing my own pet, and knowing this outcome, I was unsure what to expect in the heart-strings department.
I guess you have to be, or in my case, have been, a pet owner to really appreciate the film, but Marley & Me is a delightful comedy adventure set in a wonderful location that manages to supply plenty of laughs. My only real concern is with the cast. Whilst there's no doubting that Owen Wilson and Jennifer Anniston make a great couple (and keep an eye out for a fantastic Kathleen Turner) they are hardly what I'd call the most ideal of actors to play the Grogan family. Whether John Grogan had any input to their casting, readers of the original book will be well aware that the bearded John Grogan and his wife Jenny look completely the opposite to their on screen characters. Still, I guessed they'd be chuffed with their on screen alter egos whilst Marley looks just as sweet and gorgeous as his pictures (it's just a pity there's no obvious acknowledgement to the faithful dog that has made them a huge pile of money).
Whilst purchasing Marley & Me on the Blu-ray format is questionable, especially since I'm sure this is not the sort of film that can be watched over and over again, the wonderful scenery and the crisp and clear images makes it truly hard to opt for the lower priced Standard DVD. With plenty of silly dog related extras (were you expecting anything else?!) it's a wonderful and heart warming film that all pet owners - and all round softies - are guaranteed to get a laugh and a tear.
To coin a few lines from the film, Marley & Me goes to prove that a dog has no use for fancy cars, big homes or designer clothes. A waterlogged stick will do just fine. A dog doesn't care if you're rich or poor, dumb or smart. Give him your heart and he'll give you his. How many people can you say that about? And finally, in the words of John Grogan, dog are great. Bad dogs, if we can really call them that, are perhaps the greatest dogs of all...
- Finding Marley - A look at the process of Finding and training the 20 plus dogs that are featured in the film
- Breaking the Golden Rule - the "Golden Rule" being 'never work with children or animals'
- On Set with Marley : Dog of All Trades - Marley reveals all about his hopes, dreams and aspirations
- When Not to Pee - What it takes to recreate an "accident" that occurred on set during filming
- Animal Adoption - A discussion about the benefits of adopting a dog from an animal rescue centre and the importance of doing your research before getting a pet of any sort
- Deleted Scenes - With commentary from Director, David Frankel
- Gag Reel
- Dog Training Trivia Track - Picture-n-Picture feature
- Dog Training 101 featuring BonusView video