Marmaduke (Blu-ray Combo Pack)
Directed by Tom Dey
Studio: Twentieth Century-Fox
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 1080p AVC codec
Running Time: 88 minutes
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 English; Dolby Digital 5.1 French, Spanish, Portuguese
Subtitles: SDH, Spanish, Portuguese, others
MSRP: $ 39.99
Release Date: August 31, 2010
Review Date: August 30, 2010
Chris Noonan’s wonderful film Babe has a lot to answer for. Due to its great commercial and artistic success, the floodgates were opened for all sorts of variations on its talking animals gimmick, and the resultant films have been almost all universally awful. The latest in this flop parade of infamy is Tom Dey’s Marmaduke, a painfully unfunny, charmless, and flat family comedy with nothing new to say or to show us, and a story so feebly clichéd and predictable that it’s no wonder the movie didn’t stir much activity at the box-office earlier this year. Disney’s already cornered the market on talking dogs with the banal Buddies series of films, and Fox’s efforts here to chomp into that tasty piece of the family movie pie is as dismal as it is desperate.
Wanting something more for his family than a small town life in Kansas, advertising executive Phil Winslow (Lee Pace) uproots his wife, three children, dog Marmaduke (voice of Owen Wilson), and cat Carlos (George Lopez) and brings them to southern California where he goes to work for an organic dog food company run by the demanding Don Twombly (William H. Macy). Marmaduke, however, finds a new community of dogs at the local dog park but is dismayed to find that it’s a place segregated by classes: the purebreds headed by the bullying Bosco (Kiefer Sutherland) lord over the mutts whom Marmaduke begins to head. Bosco’s lovely lady friend Jezebel (Fergie) catches Marmaduke’s eye much to the dismay of Mazie (Emma Stone), one of the mixed breed dogs who found much to like in the goofy Great Dane. When Marmaduke manages to impress the hoity-toity pooches, he’s glad to join them and leave his underling friends behind.
Both the human and canine sides of the Tim Rasmusse-Vince Di Meglio screenplay are abysmally familiar: overachiever father neglects his family to gain success ignoring their feelings and wishes while the dog loses sight of real friendship when he’s blinded by success and admiration by those who don’t have his best interests at heart. Perhaps the youngest of family members will still find something fresh or funny about these trite scenarios, but almost anyone else is going to achingly groan at the procession of fart and piss jokes and the really flat-footed slapstick scenes (as when the family goes away for the weekend and Marmaduke invites his new friends over to the family’s lovely bungalow which is summarily trashed). Even action sequences where CGI dogs replace their real-life counterparts (as in the dog surfing or break dancing scenes) show a lack of real technical finesse as the animation is glaringly obvious. And the human side of the story never takes off either as the too-familiar story and the complete lack of chemistry between the family members make those scenes agonizingly slow and routine.
How tragic that Lee Pace went from one of the great television series of this century (Pushing Daisies) only to land in this muck as his reward. William H. Macy, usually a reliable actor in both comedy and drama, has nothing to play so his performance seems vacant, without real motivation and centering. As for those character voices, there isn’t much even the best actors can do with such uninteresting dialogue, and even the casting isn’t all that felicitous. Kiefer Sutherland’s voice doesn’t seem to match the dog playing Bosco at all, and Owen Wilson’s drawly good-natured turn as the title character doesn’t quite have the heft one would like for Marmaduke either (Tim Allen might have been a better choice). Of the principals, only George Lopez and Sam Elliott (an elder statesman of the dog community with a Bigfoot reputation) seem well matched to their characters, and their work produces the only chuckles this feeble comedy manages to generate.
The film’s 2.35:1 theatrical aspect ratio is faithfully reproduced in 1080p using the AVC codec. Bad film but a stunning video transfer (how ironic!) marks this new release as color saturation, exquisite details in fur, hair, and skin textures, and dimensionality are really first rate. Contrast has been perfectly realized to give the film on many occasions that amazing clarity that distinguishes the real reference quality transfers available on the format. The clarity also makes the sequences where complete CGI animation takes over from live action dogs painfully visible. The film has been divided into 28 chapters.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 sound mix has the usual underutilized soundfield that comedies often sport. Though there is a fair amount of sound effects activity across the fronts, and the music of Christopher Lennertz along with some pop songs on the track manages a decent spread through the fronts and spilling into the rears (with a few mild descents into the LFE channel for bass notes), the entire sound design is rather tame with sequences during the beach outing, a rainstorm, and the climactic rescue from the Los Angeles drainage system sonically underachieving and uninspired.
All of the bonus features are presented in 1080p.
“Puppy Marmaduke and Kitty Carlos: Home Movies” is a tongue-in-cheek look at younger versions of Marmaduke and Carlos playing friskily with voiceover narration by actor Finley Jacobsen. It runs for 3 ½ minutes.
There are eight deleted scenes which can be played separately or in one 9 ½-minute collection.
The film’s gag reel runs for 2 ¾ minutes.
“Canine Casting” shows a number of dogs showing up for casting sessions doing tricks while their owners issue commands. The Great Dane George is selected to play the title character in this 2 ¾-minute featurette.
“Cowabarka! Surfing Dogs” shows the film’s acting canines getting used to being in water along with professional surfer Scott Chandler introducing his dog Zoë and showing us how she can ride the waves with him and his family. The most interesting of the set's features, it runs 5 ¼ minutes.
The film’s theatrical trailer runs 2 ½ minutes.
There are 1080p trailers for Marley & Me: The Terrible 2’s, Tooth Fairy, Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel, and Percy Jackson & the Olympians.
The second disc in the set contains the DVD edition of the movie.
2/5 (not an average)
Only young children are likely to find anything fresh or funny about Marmaduke. If talking animals are what you want, the film delivers them in plentiful numbers. The mostly bland bonus features don’t do much to elevate this material beyond the mundane.