Caffeinated Clint

By Brian Orndorf

The comic strip “Marmaduke” has been a staple of newspapers since 1954, leaving the producers of the film adaptation over 50 years of canine antics to help build a screenplay. So, naturally, they invent a series of urine and fart jokes to best service the enduring legacy of the rascally Great Dane. In all, “Marmaduke” isn’t quite the bleed-from-the-eyes moviegoing experience the heinous marketing suggests, but there’s an overpowering amount of laziness here that detracts from the core of good-natured mischief the character should be displaying.

Living it up in Kansas with the Winslow family, including parents Phil (Lee Pace) and Debbie (Judy Greer), dog Marmaduke (voiced by Owen Wilson) enjoys a certain freedom palling around with kids and his feline sidekick, Carlos (George Lopez, of course). When Phil is offered an amazing job with an organic pet food company run by stern boss Don (William H. Macy), he uproots the Winslow household and takes the gang to California, where Marmaduke befriends a few helpful strays, including lovesick Mazie (Emma Stone). Trying to find his footing in this alien land, the Great Dane unintentionally upsets bully Bosco (Kiefer Sutherland), who’s fiercely protective of his neighborhood and his girlfriend, Jezebel (Fergie).

Coming from the team that scripted “Smother” and “License to Wed,” it seems “Marmaduke” never stood a chance against assured mediocrity. It’s a robotic picture for undiscerning family audiences, mindlessly working through the motions of doggy tomfoolery and domestic melodrama (Phil’s hounded by neglectful dad issues) before everything’s wrapped up with big action finale, doling out the canine comeuppance with the least amount of effort possible. There’s a substantial amount of negative to “Marmaduke” that often drags the film to a dead stop, with a labored screenplay that barely smuggles any imagination into this world of talking dogs and cats that occasionally surf and ingest magic mushrooms. You already know “Marmaduke” isn’t a stellar movie, so let’s focus on the positive.

The voice cast here to help cartoon the live-action movie along is a bonus, with a likable range of tones and comedic speeds to add some sparkle to an otherwise dreary film. Wilson is basically Wilson as Marmaduke, but his energy level is uncharacteristically high, matching the dog’s building-sized frame with a commanding bit of vocal quirk. Also charming is Stone as friend-zone pooch Mazie. The actress has killer rusted pipes for animation, supplying needed spunk and concern while everyone else is allowed to carry the merriment. Sutherland also enjoys his time as the baddie, growling (and drooling — the dog, not the actor) up a storm. It’s an amusing cast (including Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Steve Coogan, and Sam Elliot as the feared “Chupadogra”) shoving some much needed personality into the film, making the dog interaction sequences the highlights of the picture.

Director Tom Dey (“Failure to Launch”) makes something of an effort, trying to sneak in a few Adult Swim-style gags (like the aforementioned drug-ingesting dogs) to counteract the bodily function humor, but it’s a lost cause. Once “Marmaduke” switches over to sitcom mode for the finale (which, uncomfortably enough, features a sinkhole threat), the formula swallows what little passes for fun. With a tank of a dog causing trouble, occasionally wisecracking, and frequently dabbling in neuroses, it seems “Marmaduke” could’ve been something, if not great, at least winningly odd. Instead, it’s dull and conventional, turning a half-century of mischief into 80 minutes of yawns.

ShareShare on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterEmail this to someoneShare on Google+Pin on Pinterest

About Caffeinated Clint

Clint is the creator, editor and maintainer of Moviehole.

View All Posts

Your Name (required)

Your Email (required)


Your Message


Against the Current - the band, not adventures in dangerous swimming 101
Zedd - If our love is tragedy, why are you my remedy? (Well, answer my question!)
Arrow (Okay, Felicity from Arrow!)
Chrissy Costanza (cat eyes and buttery lyrics!)
Girls (TV) (Okay, Allison Williams!)
Movies - especially when they play in the dark.
Twin Peaks (TV)
Friends (TV) (It had me at "No way are you cool enough to pull Clint"; damn straight, Chandler!)
Traveling - preferably where water is, so I can splash someone!
Star Wars trilogy - no, the other one, fella!
Alex G - far more talented than her younger brother Alex H
Cameron Crowe movies - Say Anything..., Jerry Maguire, Almost Famous
The sign 'Free Wi-Fi'.
Reenacting dance/song scenes from "Grease" with my little girl (hey! Wait till you see my 'Summer Lovin'! - don't judge)
Die Hard - 40 stories of Sheer Adventure!
Alex Goot & Friends (his enemies aren't half as talented!)
Cooking up a nice dish and sitting in the entertainment area, on a cool night, basking in it's greatness.
Inflatable kids pools full of Vodka Lime Crush.
Acidic Email from angry, over passionate teenagers after I trash something "Twilight"-related on the site. Sparkle elsewhere.
My baby girl's big, caring heart.

Click to add a comment

You must be logged in to post a comment Login

Leave a Reply

Caffeinated Clint

Clint is the creator, editor and maintainer of Moviehole.

More in Uncategorized

Jupiter Ascending

Caffeinated ClintFebruary 12, 2015

The Rover

Editorial StaffJune 3, 2014

Come Join Us At a Private Screening of The Raid 2

Editorial StaffFebruary 27, 2014


Lost your password?