Apparently, Garfield wasn't enough of a bomb to convince Hollywood to back off the talking animal genre. Then again, Beverly Hills Chihuahua and Alvin and the Chipmunks were inexplicable success stories (especially Chihuahua). So here we go again, with 20th Century Fox ripping Marmaduke from his 50 plus comfort zone of the funny pages, relocating him to Orange County and having Owen Wilson speak for him.
Yeah, it doesn't sound like a particularly good idea, does it? It's akin to trying to make a big budget Hollywood movie out of the Family Circus or Non Sequitur- it just doesn't seem like it would work. But as Hollywood has proven again and again, it's more than willing to make any idea work, as long as it's attached to a franchise that people immediately recognize, *cough* Stretch Armstrong and Erector Set *cough*, even though it means that countless unnamed, compelling and creative projects go unfunded, ignored and overlooked.
Basically, Marmaduke didn't need to be made. I don't know any children who are really aware of the old guard comic strip, because none of them read the newspaper, and it's not like Marmaduke has a big online presence. But Owen Wilson and George Lopez, sure those guys just scream kids' movie, don't they? Especially the billboards for Lopez Tonight that depict George's face being a pee stain on a local yokel's trousers. But, you see, that's why Hollywood had to move Marmaduke close to home, otherwise, he'd be boring as shit.
So, Marmaduke is transplanted from Kansas to California when his family decides to relocate, and as Hollywood always likes to portray itself, the Great Dane finds heaven. The weather is nice, the back yard is a suburban enchanted forest, and there are tons of hot bitches for him to sniff. No, literally, female dogs. One in particular catches his eye, the sexy collie named Mazie, played by Emma Stone. Now I love Emma Stone, but why oh why did she do this? To be more family friendly? When you're best known for R-rated fare like Superbad and Zombieland, it doesn't seem like the next role you'd want to play would be a collie in a kids' comedy. But I digress.
The plot is both simple and complicated, and takes some unnecessary twists and turns, like a child who couldn't follow directions playing connect the dots on a kids' menu. Really lame puns like "Get your bark on," "Who let the dogs out?" and "Cowabarka"are tossed around frequently, as if dogs would actually say those things, could they really talk. Most of the humor revolves around bodily functions, namely flatulence. Hollywood does everything it can to make kids think Marmaduke is cool. They go so far as to have him surf and lead a Bob Fosse number at the dog park. Neither effect looks believable.
I don't think movies have to be stupid for kids to like them. Children are smarter than we think, they like things that are more sophisticated than the executives at Fox seem to believe, and Marmaduke is the poster child for a Hollywood that's out of touch with the youngsters. It's like that immature uncle that keeps making fart noises in the hopes that someone will appreciate his arrested development.
At least Marmaduke seems to have the good intentions to entertain the 10 and under crowd, and it may actually succeed in doing so, and that is worth something. But everyone else will probably come away feeling like they wasted $10 a ticket.
Whoever let the dogs out needs to apologize.