Making the Grades
Kids have been crying in movies about dogs for years. Now Marley & Me reinvents the classic canine formula and offers an adult movie about a pup that pretty much guarantees—no matter how grown-up you are—that you will be digging for a tissue before the credits roll.
John and Jennifer Grogan (Owen Wilson and Jennifer Aniston) are newspaper journalists who start their lifetime journey together in Florida. Jennifer literally has a checklist of things she is determined to accomplish, and as she approaches the motherhood box, John becomes stressed. Taking advice from a friend, he introduces a cute little puppy into their marriage with the hope that Marley will satisfy any maternal cravings his wife may be feeling.
Yet Marley proves to be far more than a woman’s best friend. The energetic pooch is next to impossible to control, and soon their small home is tossed, ripped and shredded. Even obedience school is a washout after Marley tackles the teacher and begins rubbing himself against her leg. A visit to the vet puts his sexual inclinations in check, but it still doesn’t keep him from getting into constant trouble—trouble that turns out to be the key to John’s career. After reluctantly accepting a new job assignment as a fill-in columnist at the paper, the once hard-core reporter finds a new niche as a humorous writer recounting the antics of his pet.
And that’s only the beginning…
Marley becomes the backbone of this story that naturally unfolds and looks at the highs and lows of life, including having children, making career decisions, moving and—eventually—having to say goodbye. The film’s ability to illustrate poignant moments within marriage (which ring true) make it a rare entry on the marquee. And Wilson and Aniston are surprisingly sensitive in their roles, rendering subtle overtones to their performances.
The film’s other unique feature is its portrayal of a happily married couple who pull together during difficult times (“Mend it, don’t end it,” says John) and laugh together when life gives them a break. This marital bliss sometimes results in sexual situations that, for the most part, shouldn’t be too troubling for adults, but may give reason to pause before sharing the movie with the kids. Considering the MPAA PG rating, scenes with sexual banter about Marley losing his manhood, some canoodling on a squeaky bed and a late night naked swim in a backyard pool (no nudity seen) may push some family boundaries.
Topics like pregnancy and childbirth are discussed, along with the serious situation of a neighborhood girl who endures a non-fatal stab wound from a boyfriend (the act is not seen). Scatological humor is another recurring theme, especially when John needs to search the backyard for a valuable item Marley has ingested.
This “mature” content is somewhat regrettable as the second half of the film could create valuable conversation starters for parents and children about animal care, love and sacrifice. Overall, Marley & Me takes audiences on a thoughtful walk through life and illustrates how determination and perseverance pays off when it’s applied to marriage, raising children—and even taming a disobedient dog.
Discussion Ideas After The Movie
Teaching ideas and topics to discuss about Marley & Me.
What elements of life does this script portray that are not usually seen on movie screens? Do you think films like this, which portray the common and mundane, are still entertaining?
What are some of the advantages and disadvantages of pet ownership? Why do you think animals play such a large part in many cultures, both in the past and present?