Can there be an easier movie to churn out than the talking dog comedy? Trailblazers like Scooby Doo and Beverly Hills Chihuahua have laid the CG groundwork in the field of lip-synching sassy animated animals, while stars like Owen Wilson – with his Marley & Me millions still lining his mattress – can’t resist the payday that a few hours barking into a microphone affords.
We’d like to think that fellow voiceover artist Emma Stone lived on all fours for six months in preparation for her role as an australian shepherd, but if she did, it’s a special feature sorely missing from the extras. There’s little to suggest that Marmaduke is anything more than a studio going through the motions – there are no new tricks being performed by this old dog.
The plot, as you might expect from a movie adapted from a newspaper comic strip, is the kind of hackneyed tosh only a six-yearold would invest in, while the two-legged cast (erstwhile Pushing Daisies star Lee Pace and perennial ‘best friend’ Judy Greer) just look grateful for the work.
The less said about William H Macy’s flustered boss the better; how many dog years has it been since he took direction from the Coen Brothers? It was tough having to teach Marmaduke that Timmy falling down the well was bad.
Of course, this is hardly a genre that welcomes creativity or original thinking: it’s about talking dogs and stinky farts and people falling over, and within these parameters, Marmaduke could be The Dogfather. Knee-heighters will certainly get a huge kick out of the party scenes as the rude dog and his dweebs tear up his owners’ house, doggy-style, and there are also a few gags that’ll have young pups chuckling, such as a dog who’s fluent in chipmunk.
Adults, however, could consider this a no-doubt welcome opportunity for an 88-minute nap while the kids are entertained. Extras are equally yawnsome, unless you consider a five-minute featurette on surfing dogs an adequate way to spend your time.
Blu-ray owners get eight deleted scenes (compared to three on the DvD) plus a lol-free gag reel and a ‘home movie’ of ‘Duke as a puppy. Unsurprisingly, Owen Wilson is nowhere to be seen; presumably he was sailing round the world on his solidgold yacht when these bonus features were being filmed.
It may be inoffensive stuff on the whole, but Marmaduke could set a dangerous precedent: if Fred bassett gets his own movie, we’re leaving the country.
Bad dog! The U-rating means any real humour has been completely muzzled for the kids: if only it barked or bit.