The Good: Not many: one or two jokes.
The Bad: Predictable plot, Awkward CG effects, Uninspired acting, Obvious character directions.
The Basics: Despite one or two laughs, Marmaduke is a big-screen flop which is a waste of time for anyone truly looking to be entertained.
There comes a moment in the horror-comedy Zombieland (click here for my review!) where Bill Murray admits that if there were anything he could take back in life it would be doing the Garfield movies. Even though it was an obvious joke in the film, it ought to have given pause to makers of other films involving animals. Unfortunately for Marmaduke, the next in line of comic strips turned films, the movie suffers for many of the same reasons as the Garfield movies and because it comes so closely on the heels of the recent animal movie flop Furry Vengeance.
Marmaduke, truth be told, is a movie I had little interest in seeing after my partner and I saw the previews. However, my wife is a big fan of animals and she loves Great Danes, which the title character is, so when we went to the movies last weekend, that is what I ended up watching with her. I want my money back. And, in perhaps the biggest, best critique against the film, so does my wife. My wife has a love of comedies and of animals and this movie was so bad that even she was disappointed.
Phil and Debbie Winslow live in Kansas with their Great Dane Marmaduke and cat Carlos when Phil is offered a promotion at Bark Organic Pet Food that comes with moving to California. In Orange County, Phil meets with his boss at the dog park and Marmaduke meets the other dogs. Marmaduke quickly develops a crush on Jezebel and befriends Mazie, Guiseppe, and Raison. However, Marmaduke's attraction for Jezebel quickly earns him the ire of the bully dogs, Bosco, Lightning and Thunder and when Marmaduke gets into conflicts with them, Phil's job is threatened.
Through a series of inane plot developments - including a canine surfing contest and Marmaduke and Phil becoming separated - Marmaduke wins the more considerate girl, comes through for Phil and creates a movie that is so terrible I am stretching to find things to write about it.
The plot is utterly predictable and is far more fractured than flowing. As one might expect from a movie based upon a comic strip, the film is almost entirely devoid of character development. Indeed, writers Vince Di Meglio and Tim Rasmussen take a character that is essentially a one-panel joke machine and make him into the moving incarnation of the same with no real growth or development. In other words, the viewer does not so much care about Marmaduke as they suffer through watching him make jokes like widening his eyes at cute girls (in this case female dogs) and poop references without actually building a likable character. Instead, the movie is slapstick and schtick and the most insulting aspect is that it is nothing viewers have not seen before in far too many other, vastly better, family films.
The film seems more like a desperate attempt to make a film than actually having a good story to tell. Phil is likable only in a bland, "hey this is a good guy we're watching" way. William H. Macy's talents are utterly wasted as Mr. Twombly, though it is nice to see Macy in a comedy again. Macy has great range, but in Marmaduke, he is used as a slapstick prop and it is unfortunate to watch. Phil's character seems mostly based upon the casting for him as Phil is played by Lee Pace, who is a good actor in many things, but seems to fit the cartoonish smooth-faced, bug-eyed delivery that the casting department for this film was looking for.
This brings us to Own Wilson Wilson provides the voice of Marmaduke as part of a cast of actors - George Lopez, Fergie, Emma Stone, Kiefer Sutherland, Sam Elliot - who are distinguished and whom director Tom Dey must have especially explicit pictures of the worst kind of. Seriously, that is the only reason I can believe as to how so many quality actors were bamboozled into participating in this lame-joke festival. The voice actors do fine with their deliveries, but the jokes are essentially one-liners and a collection of one-liners hardly makes a film.
Moreover, the voice acting is supposed to be trumped by the computer effects work which animate the lips of the characters and put the animals in situations animals clearly are not. Those CG-effects are tiresome and they fail to sell the unreality of some of the fights, contests and (sigh) dance numbers. The lip synchs do not always match and ultimately, the film is over long before it reaches its end because the viewer does not care about it.
Easily going to be one of the worst films of the year, Marmaduke has only one true redeeming feature I can think of: at least it beat the Cats And Dogs sequel to market.
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© 2010 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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