Hannah Dixon, age 8, on Marmaduke
Yeah, that's kind of the review right there.
Marmaduke is the kind of movie you drop in the DVD player, mash the big button on the remote, and run away as quickly as your stubby little legs will take you. It's not a family movie: it's a kiddie flick. If you're a parent, you know the difference. If you're not a parent, then...wait, why are you reading this again? Anyway, if you haven't read the Marmaduke strip since Jimmy Carter was in office, it hasn't really changed all that much. Marmaduke's a dog. A big dog. He eats a lot. He...actually, that's pretty much it. One panel a day, every day, for 56 years, so that's somewhere around twenty thousand "it looks more like Marmaduke's walking him!" gags. If you're scratching your head wondering how someone could take that and drag it out into an hour-and-a-half movie, the answer's "high school".
See, Marmaduke is pretty much a high school comedy about a slacker teenager, only with...y'know, dogs. Keeping in mind that I don't remember the names of any of the not-an-animal characters, the story goes something like this: Marketing Exec Who Cares More About His Job Than His Family (Lee Pace) lands a ritzy new position out in sunny California. The family's really not all that jazzed about moving up stakes from Kansas to the O.C., which they really do call "The O.C." somewhere around 1,386 times throughout the course of the movie, but they love Dad, so they support him anyway. Not that there's all that much point in mentioning the rest of the family, but it includes Judy Greer as the mom who crinkles her nose whenever Marmaduke (voiced by a sleepwalking Owen Wilson) farts, the boy who doesn't really want to play soccer, the 13 year old girl who's
Okay, so Workaholic Pop is toiling away as the new director of marketing for this organic dog food company in Los Angeles that gives him a $2.5 million house and a company car, and there's obviously kind of some pressure to deliver. His eccentric new boss (William H. Macy) is a doggie nut and asks Workaholic to meet him in the local dog park to ominously talk things over. That's where the high school part comes in. Marmaduke is introduced to all the different cliques at the park...cheerleaders, drama geeks, and all that...but the two big ones are the Mutts and the Pedigrees. Turns out Marmaduke's not a purebred Great Dane, so he's stuck with the dweeby outsiders, complete with the understatedly pretty
One of Marmaduke's first lines in the movie is "I know it's juvenile, but it's all I've got", and that pretty much sums up a movie this lazy and laughless. I mean, you know how a scratched record is about the most cliched, overused sound effect gag in the Big Book of Cliched, Overused Sound Effect Gags? Marmaduke belts out three record scratches, and that might be a record. The whole thing's bookended with Marmaduke farting in his owners' bed. I lost track of the number of pee jokes, but the highlight there for sure is one of the pedigrees whizzing in a guy's cup followed by a huge spit take. Admittedly, I'm not so much the target demographic, but not a single one of the clunky one-liners, goofy puns, or desperate pratfalls scattered around in Marmaduke manage to connect. For a flick aimed towards kids, it's surprisingly low-energy too. The movie clocks in at 86 minutes but drags on for what feels to be at least another half hour on top of that. Quite a few lines of dialogue are followed by a really long pause, and while that might make sense coming after a gag to wait till the kids in the audience are finished cracking up, there's a lot of dead air even with standard issue exposition. There's a lot of exposition too, with Marmaduke overexplaining everything he's doing even when he's in the middle of doing it. His jowls never really stop flapping. There are mostly pointless little subplots with the rest of the family, but they're forgettable
Maybe you're thinking that Marmaduke is an easy target and that I'm a terrible, terrible person for picking on it. You wouldn't be wrong. Still, there are so many genuinely amazing films out there that appeal to the entire family. This, meanwhile, is a lazy cash-grab that panders to four year olds. The whole thing's really talky, slow moving, and obvious. It squanders an unbelievably talented cast. I mean, Sam Elliott? Lee Pace? Judy Greer? William H. Macy? That's more like the line-up for some brilliant indie comedy, not this sort of studio hackery. None of the actors really manage to infuse Marmaduke with any sort of kinetic energy either, with the whole thing kind of limping around lifelessly. Even the voices for the chatty animals seems to float disinterestedly above 'em...it's not done skillfully enough for you to escape into the idea that these critters really are talking to each other. Why does Marmaduke even exist? The very long running Beethoven franchise makes for better Marmaduke movies than this. If your kids are bugging you to pick up this Blu-ray disc, I won't try to talk you out of it or anything, but...yeah, you'll want to leave the room in a hurry. Marmaduke's low-rent, amateurish, and dim-witted, so my vote...? Skip It.
Marmaduke is about as bright, vivid, and candy-colored as anything I've stumbled across on Blu-ray. The movie's fresh out of theaters too, so it kinda goes without saying that it's very sharp and detailed, and its black levels are really punchy to boot. The film stock this time around is a little grainier than usual, though, and it doesn't serve up quite the same level of fine detail that Blu-ray has spoiled me into expecting. Marmaduke still looks very nice in high-def, sure, but it does come across as a little cheaper than I waltzed in hoping to see. Think a really, really strong presentation of a Disney Channel Original Movie, maybe. There aren't any glaring flaws or anything to drag it all down, though. Really good but -- just because of the way it was shot -- not quite great.
Marmaduke is given plenty of room to stretch out on this dual layer Blu-ray disc, and its scope video is compressed with AVC.
Marmaduke also serves up Dolby Digital 5.1 dubs in Spanish, French, and Portuguese. Subtitles are offered in English (SDH), Spanish, Portuguese, Cantonese, and Mandarin.
Marmaduke is a BD Live-enabled disc, and there's one extra that's exclusively lurking around online. "The Fabulous Life of Hollywood Pets" (4 min.) can be downloaded at a higher quality or streamed. It spends a few minutes with the cast and producers gabbing about their own doggies: everything from Fergie's pair of dachsunds all the way to Marlon Wayans' labradoodle.
The second disc in the set is a DVD of Marmaduke, so now you have something else to distract the kids in the minivan or whatever. There's not a digital copy this time around, which doesn't matter to me but seems kinda funny since the Blu-ray disc opens with a promo about how awesome digital copies are for family flicks like this.
The Final Word