Marmaduke is a self-evidently bad idea for a movie. It is a comic strip that is so criminally unfunny that it begins to approach a peaceful kind of grueling awfulness, where one reads the strip not to be amused, but to have life re-affirmed: civilisations may rise and fall (and some have in the fifty-six goddamn years that the strip has been running), but by God, Marmaduke is still right there, a perfect void of anything remotely charming or amusing. For those blissfully unaware of what the hell I'm talking about, Marmaduke is written and drawn, as it has been for fifty-six goddamn years, by Brad Anderson, and it is about a Great Dane who, because of his huge size and mischievous personality, destroys things or climbs on top of people who are nonplussed by the sight of 200 pounds of dog jumping on them. I have just described 100% of Marmaduke cartoons.

You can't stretch a feature out of that, even if you are a soulless studio hack of the wickedest sort; so the movie-makers of course changed things, and in the process not only ruined the core of the property (which will doubtlessly cause anguish in all of the eight people who enjoy Marmaduke unironically), but made something even worse: here, Marmaduke (voiced by Owen Wilson, who has thereby ceased to be worthy of even the slightest degree of respect by anyone) is a "teenager", he talks - very frequently, in direct address to the camera, and it's fiendishly annoying - and instead of climbing on things, he journeys to Orange County, California, where his owner Phil (Lee Pace, a fine actor thoroughly degrading himself) has taken a new job marketing organic dog food, packing up his wife Debbie (Judy Greer, a great actress whose degradation makes Pace look like he took the role for its Oscar potential) and kids. There, Marmaduke finds himself in a dog park that is described as a "high school for dogs", where he experiences precisely the plot of the pilot episode of The O.C., and just to make sure that we make the connection, Marmaduke and his latino cat friend Carlos (George Lopez) watch that very same show in preparation for their trip. He falls in love with a gorgeous collie and tries to prove his worth, which he does by winning a surfing contest. A fucking surfing contest. The second half of the plot concerns what happens when Marmaduke becomes an alpha-male at the dog park, and must learn a lesson in humility when he becomes too cool for the kindly dogs that befriended him when he was new, chief among them the pretty Australian Shepherd Mazie (Emma Stone).

The film is insulting and vile. It is passed off as "children's entertainment", as though that is meant to make things okay, but I would much rather live in a world where we love children and want to give them movies that are sparkling and intelligent and give them many things to think about, sharpening their young minds while still entertaining them. Marmaduke hates your children; Marmaduke presumes that they are the most loathsome, stupid beings in the world, and all you want to do is to make them shut up for 87 minutes. Marmaduke is also ludicrously over-stuffed with anti-topical jokes that suggest the film was written in late 2003: The O.C., "Who Let the Dogs Out?" (a line spoken twice), Almost Famous., And what is not these references is probably some kind of dippy quip, predicated on the idea that a dog using a human cliché, but replacing "hands" or "feet" with "paws" is the height of wit. For the film indeed assumes as well that any adult coming with their child is loathsome and stupid, and not only fails to provide anything remotely entertaining for those adults, it goes out of its way to deprive them of entertainment by making sure to use only the lowest, worst kind of humor (though, shockingly, not one person ends up face down in dog shit, throughout the whole movie).

There is a character in the film called "Chupadogra", voiced by Sam Elliott; William H. Macy gets hit in the balls twice in less than 30 seconds by a speeding Great Dane. Those two facts communicate as much as anything else the contempt in which Marmaduke holds not just its audience, but art and humanity. It is hideous (the talking CGI dog mouths aren't half as convincing as Babe was, 15 years ago), and it is puerile, and it is the worst thing I have seen in a movie theater in months.

Since nothing I could say can express my disgust with the film any more than I have, I shall instead turn Marmaduke against Marmaduke, and retell the plot of the film using re-captioned comics. (Dear United Features Syndicate lawyers: I make no money whatsoever from this blog. Also, this is a parody, and a work of criticism. And I'm also pointing out that United Features Syndicate is the legitimate owner of Marmaduke).




(a direct quote from the film; cf.)








1/10