It’s a dog eat dog world out there, and when you’re a breed that can stand up to a full height of more than six feet, you can write your own ticket.
Rating: 2 out of 4 stars
Time: 87 minutes
Starring: The voices of: Owen Wilson, George Lopez, Emma Stone and Kiefer Sutherland.
Unfortunately, the goofball title quadruped of “Marmaduke” doesn’t really have the bite to back up his bark.
In the Winslow family, the head of household isn’t father Phil (Lee Pace) or mother Debbie (Judy Greer). The member who runs things in this Kansas family is Marmaduke (voice of Owen Wilson), a big-eared, fun-loving Great Dane whose affection for his owners is only matched by his endless quest for food.
Along with his “stepbrother,” family cat Carlos (George Lopez), the pooch has everything he could need, but the pets and their human companions find their comfortable existence altered considerably when Phil accepts a marketing job with an organic dog food company in California.
Although Marmaduke loves the new house — complete with a dog door designed for his girth — the Winslow children (Caroline Sunshine, Finley Jacobsen, Mandy and Milana Haines) are less accepting of the cross-country move.
But the big galoot quickly finds himself paws-deep in pressure, as he is expected to help Phil make a good impression on his new boss (William H. Macy), but even more importantly, he has to wow the cliquey dogs of the Bark Park, the local hangout for the canine crowd.
Perhaps it was because of his wonderful work in “Marley & Me” that the filmmakers decided to cast Wilson in such a part as this. However, the important thing to remember is that in that movie, he wasn’t playing the dog.
The actor’s lackadaisical drawl actually isn’t bad for that of an easygoing pet, but for a Great Dane, wouldn’t your mind jump to somebody with a baritone or bass?
Or would that be typecasting?
Well, most of the other voice casting decisions make a little more sense, such as Emma Stone, as Marmaduke’s platonic friend, Mazie, a self-conscious rescue shelter dog; Fergie, as Jezebel, the collie he drools over upon first sight; and Kiefer Sutherland, as Bosco, the bullying top dog of the dog park, who wastes no time in trying to psyche out our hero.
It’s hard to know what to expect in a film adaptation of a long-running comic strip that has never had a real story aside from a family whose behemoth canine always found himself in wacky situations.
In that respect, there’s no real disappointment since, as opposed to the Sunday Funnies, there’s somewhat of a plot here. Plus, the Great Dane in question looks much more realistic than the computer-generated mess in “Scooby-Doo.”
Still, the story is pretty threadbare, reminiscent of other live-action versions of cartoons like “Fat Albert” or “Garfield” in which nothing really happens.
Given the possible comedy material that could be derived from California pet owners, you’d think we might see a few knowing jabs at people who give their furry friends carte blanche of the house or stick them in surfing competitions, but in both instances, this is made out to be completely normal behavior.
Few talking animal movies have been memorable, and “Marmaduke” certainly isn’t setting any new standards.
Maybe diehard dog lovers will find it endearing, otherwise, it’s hardly a must-see, though if the phrase “Hang 20” cracks you up, you may have found your new best friend.