Marley & Me is the cute, dog movie that opened on Christmas 2008 starring Jennifer Aniston and Owen Wilson. The movie is based on a book of the same name, by John Grogan, about his yellow lab named Marley and the trials and tribulations lack of training caused for his family - and almost cost Marley his home.

Okay, that’s not what the movie trailers show, that’s a professional dog trainer’s commentary after reading between the lines (or watching between the scenes as it were).

I didn’t read the book, so I can’t comment on how closely the movie matched the book, but I can give you my two cents on what I thought about the film.

Go see it. It’s cute, lively, light-hearted and funny. But take a box of tissues, because you will cry… And wiping up tears with a buttery, salty napkin is not recommended.

It’s a family film full of silly situations that anyone who’s ever raised up a puppy can relate to. I felt most of the antics were over-blown, but that’s what made them fun. If you’ve ever had to clean up after a dog has emptied your trash (that you forgot to put out before leaving in the morning) or have had to live with table legs that had been reshaped by puppy gnawing, then you know the story always gets bigger the more you tell it.

My movie companion, Mary, an experienced dog handler, and ‘professional puppy raiser’ for a service dog agency, who read the book prior to seeing the movie, didn’t think the antics were over-blown that much - at least not compared to the book. Then again, the owner is an author so maybe the book was a bit exaggerated.

I thought there was just so much more could have done with the beginning of the movie, and puppyhood in general, that wasn't as over the top, yet I bet people could identify with. Puppies are adorable and do silly things as a matter of course… they are gangly, curious and entertaining as a rule. After all, that’s what keeps them alive when they shred a carpet or eat your underwear. Perhaps a little more narration in the beginning would have helped the audience to understand the mindset of the owner.

Marley was only an adorable little puppy for about five minutes of the movie, spending a bit more time on the cuteness of the first few weeks at home might have helped endear him to us. But like Labradors do, he grew into the adult-sized, puppy-brained monster that makes for good story telling in very short order. The movie got better toward the middle and end when I could identify more with the human characters.

Mary also thought "the book did do a lot more to endear the reader to Marley that the movie missed out on more narration in the beginning of the movie would have helped. The mindset of the owner/author was that of your typical well meaning but clueless dog owner. They did actually attempt to train him, but as the scene in the movie shows, their first experience with training was so negative; they didn’t pursue it any more. Such a shame. But a little training would probably have meant no book, and no movie."

I’m hoping people who see the movie noticed that they didn't give up the dog even though they came close after a particularly stressful day. The best years of their life with Marley came about because they made it through the first 2-3 years of puppy zaniness, and didn't give him away. Marley truly was part of the family.

Again, having not read the book, the film didn’t make it obvious that this dog was probably having some anxiety from thunderstorms, possible separation issues and definitely didn’t have a lick of self-control or any concept of making good decisions. As a trainer the dog’s body language when he was tearing up pillows and wrecking the house was that of a happy dog, not a stressed, phobic dog, so for me it was a disconnect and made me wonder why wouldn’t the owners do more to contain the damage and teach some manners. But given it’s a movie, Mary pointed out that, "it’s probably hard to create a phobic looking dog without actually intentionally inducing the phobia
which would be mean." She didn’t know that the owner/author even realized they were phobias. Just that he ‘didn’t like’ thunderstorms. That reminded her of the one scene they didn’t do the owner/author actually got hit by lightening once. He came in the house and said to Marley that he would never again get angry with him for being afraid of storms.

Mary thought "this was the perfect combination of a very large, noise-phobic dog with a good temperament living with a loving family with a good sense of humor, one of whom was a really good story teller."

I hope you enjoy the movie and realize what a blessing your dog is! has posted a nice little article on why Lab breeders aren't wooing Marley & Me inspired buyers, click here to read more.