PLOT: The film follows the exploits of an over-sized great dane and his family as they all are forced to deal with their move from heartland Kansas to sunny So Cal.
WHO'S IT FOR? This is one for the kids. Sure, they may not even know who Marmaduke is, but if it's a talking animal, it's usually more for the children than their parents.
EXPECTATIONS: Low doesn't even begin to cover it. I never liked the comic very much and when it comes to talking animals, particularly dogs, if it isn't Homeward Bound I'm usually not interested.
Owen Wilson as Marmaduke: The hero of our piece is obnoxious and smarmy. He's supposed to be a lovable giant, but that doesn't really translate in Wilson's voice acting. I cannot for the life of me understand the appeal of Wilson in the role. It felt like Wilson realized there was no hope for a Marley & Me 2 so he picked up the next animal project he could. Score: 3
Emma Stone as Mazie: Emma Stone, as the love interest we're supposed to pretend we don't recognize till the third act, is charming. She brings a sense of levity and good humor to the otherwise tiresome project. The problem is that no one can make this many dog puns funny. Still, she gives it her all but it's just not enough. Score: 5
George Lopez as Carlos: Evidently Lopez needed something to tide him over after the rabid success of Beverly Hills Chihuahua and nobody knows how to play against type like George Lopez. See in that movie, he was a dog, but he's a cat in this one, so it's totally different. Somebody needs to tell Mr. Lopez he's doing a disservice to mankind with these career choices. Score: 2
Kiefer Sutherland as Bosco: I have a feeling that Kiefer may have been on another bender when he signed up to do this movie. If only he'd attacked this project with the same fervor that he attacked that ominous Christmas tree, this movie might have stood a chance. Sadly, it's another cookie cutter villain in a world of throwaway characters. Still, props for not being nearly as offensive as Lopez. Score: 3
TALKING: Let's get one thing out of the way, yes, there is a Baha Men reference. However, this is only one in the great list of offenses. I understand that this is a kid's movie so there's bound to be limited depth, but the over-the-top delivery of "Marmaduke!" which seriously rivals Jason Lee's "Alvin!" in Alvin and the Chipmunks, is never a great way to start off a movie. Matters are only made worse when every other word in the English language is replaced with "bark" or "dog" or some variation on the two. It's not clever. In fact, it's not even fair to call it a pun. It's just lazy writing. Still, there are a few shining moments. Although some parents may not be too happy, there are a couple drug references that got a chuckle or two. But it's in the party scene where a dog yells "I am a golden dog!" before jumping into the pool below that Marmaduke displays a sense of humor. In the long run, those types of lines are too few and far between to make it worthwhile. Score: 4
SIGHTS: There's nothing too memorable in the way of sights for this movie. Living in the densely populated concrete jungle that is Chicago, it made me miss the great outdoors. There are some scenes at the dog park and at the beach that offer a little eye candy, but nothing to write home about. Otherwise, my only thing about the images of the movie have to do with the terrible CGI dogs. There are times where it's not too noticeable or distracting, but when the movie features elaborate dance sequences with dogs? That's when we've got a deal breaker. I understand the whole concept of suspension of disbelief, but terrible animation really pushes the boundaries of how much an audience is expected to swallow. Score: 4
SOUNDS: The movie starts out strong with one of my personal favorites, Matt Costa, playing over the opening credits. There are a couple of other songs which aren't too hard on the ears, but for the most part, it's your generic mix bag of pop and hip-hop. However, when it comes to the score of Marmaduke, there's a lot to be desired. It honestly felt like the creators went on Google and searched for "and the music swells" and picked whatever showed up first. The score did little to raise the stakes or draw me in emotionally and by the end, I was seriously remembering the good old days when I used to have tinnitus. Score: 4
BEST SCENE: Trick question, because there is no good scene. If I had to choose I'd say when Marmaduke first meets Mazie and they re-hash the whole Mean girls lunchroom scene... but, ya know, with dogs.
ENDING: There's a conflict that literally comes out of nowhere when our hero, Marmaduke, is forced to rise above and save the girl. It all feels rushed, which seems hard to do in an 87-minute movie, but the movie gives the typical type of closure that audiences should expect from a kid's movie.
QUESTIONS: Is "why" too much to ask? Why was it made? Why now? Do kids today even know who Marmaduke is?
REWATCHABILITY: I had to fight the urge to drink after watching it only once, so I'm going to go ahead and say no. If somebody thinks up a fun drinking game I might consider it, but that's doubtful.
If Mean Girls had been written for dogs, you'd get Marmaduke. New girl, or dog in this case, is given a fresh start. In the course of trying to fit in, he begins to lose his sense of self and his friends who truly loved him for who he is. It's a story that's certainly been done before and without as many fart jokes. Sadly what Marmaduke is missing that Mean Girls had in spades, was humor and heart. Marmaduke feels as lifeless as its CGI rendering, which is what makes watching this movie feel like such a chore. Clocking in at a mere 87 minutes, it shouldn't seem so difficult to do, but it's like the room in 1408 ... I dare you to last an hour. The only thing that kept me going was the obligation to The Scorecard Review and even then, walking out was tempting.
But perhaps I'm being too harsh. It's important to remember that this is a kid's movie first and foremost. It doesn't have a lot of humor geared towards its adult audience, which is something of a rarity in movies these days. As something for the children to enjoy, Marmaduke may succeed. I have my doubts about that, but I appreciate a good underdog story as much as the next guy. And the puns have begun.
In short, Marmaduke is lacking in lots of departments. For those who are looking for a fun story for the whole family to enjoy, I'd keep on walking. This one is not it. This one is something that I can only imagine kids being able to tolerate. Maybe ask the babysitter to take the kids to this one or skip it entirely. A renter if I ever saw one, the antics of Marmaduke are tired. I'm already saying it's about time for Marmaduke to go the way of Old Yeller.
FINAL SCORE: 3/10