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Film / Marley & Me

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A dog has no use for fancy cars or big homes or designer clothes. Status symbols mean nothing to him. A waterlogged stick will do just fine. A dog judges others not by their color or creed or class but by who they are inside. A dog doesn't care if you are rich or poor, educated or illiterate, clever or dull. Give him your heart and he will give you his. It was really quite simple, and yet we humans, so much wiser and more sophisticated, have always had trouble figuring out what really counts and what does not.
— John Grogan

The story of newspaper columnist John Grogan, his wife and children and their manic Labrador Retriever Marley, the 2005 book became an unexpected success particularly amongst pet owners. It was made into The Film of the Book in 2008, directed by David Frankel, with Owen Wilson and Jennifer Aniston as the protagonists.

Got a Direct to Video sequel, Marley & Me: The Puppy Years (2011) with Marley Suddenly Speaking.

Marley & Me provides examples of:

  • The '90s: The film's early scenes are set in the early '90s — note the outdated technology and the reference to Desert Storm. However, one scene in the mid-'90s has the mother put on a Bob the Builder VHS for the kid. The show wouldn't come to America at least until 2001. John also reads a newspaper which has the year 2001 on the date.
  • Adaptational Attractiveness: John and Jenny Grogan are NOT unattractive people... but they don't look like Owen Wilson and Jennifer Aniston either.
  • Adaptation Distillation: Will naturally happen when you're adapting a book into a 2-hour film. Most noticeable, however, might be how John in real life had a dog as a child, and both he and Jenny were determined to have one together as they were both dog lovers. In the film, John comments that he's never had a dog before and he decides to get one on a whim, something he surprises Jenny with.
  • Adaptation Expansion: In the film, John writes lots of colums about Marley in the newspaper throughout the dog's life. In the book/real life, John didn't write about Marley until after his death.
    • When John and his family are burying Marley in the film, Jenny gives up her necklace that Marley had once swallowed to bury with him. Whether she did this in real life or not is not mentioned in the book.
  • Adaptational Heroism: The movie got rid of the more unsavory aspect of the Grogans, most likely to alleviate some of the Values Dissonance. Most notably:
    • Have them actually researching about the Labrador breed before adopting Marley.
    • Turn the movie into a First Pet Story, thus making John and Jenny's frustration more sympathetic.
    • Remove the more mean-spirited actions and thoughts of John and Jenny towards Marley. Most notably removing Jenny once hitting Marley during her depression as well as frequently taking out her frustration on Marley.
  • Beauty Is Never Tarnished: A canine version. Although he's clearly an older dog, the supposedly dying Marley looks quite handsome and healthy, rather than the thinning, elderly creature described by John Grogan in the book.
  • Big Friendly Dog: Marley as an adult is ninety-seven pounds of love and fun.
  • Big "NO!": In the book, John had one when he witnessed Marley about to take a dump on the beach, something that could get dog owners forbidden from walking their dogs there.
  • Bowdlerise: When numerous children expressed interest in the book, John Grogan put out a child-friendly version, eliminating the more adult content, namely the frank discussion of marital relations (not just their sex life, but Jenny's miscarriage, problems with her second pregnancy and post-partum depression, etc.)
    • Arguably, the complete exclusion of anything referencing 9/11 is an example of this, even though you'd figure a movie about a journalist would at least mention it.
    • There's also the slew of children's books that he's put out over the past decade.
  • A Boy and His X: The film starts with John Grogan narrating his relationship with dogs over a shot of a young boy and his dog walking through a wheat field, implying them to be Grogan and Marley. It is immediately interrupted by the actual adult Grogan chasing an adult Marley over a fence into the same wheat field, screaming his name. The Grogans also got Marley as adults, but their children grew up with him.
  • Cradle To Grave Character: Marley is introduced as a puppy, and is shown over the course of his life until he is elderly (for a dog) and must be put to sleep.
  • Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass: Marley is usually a happy-go-lucky, energetic, not-too bright dog. However, when a neighbor gets stabbed, he goes straight into guard dog mode. John Grogan later starts to wonder why he ever doubted Marley's protective capabilities.
  • Cruel to Be Kind: John decides to break Marley of his jumping habit by kicking him in the ribs... so that he won't have to give the dog away.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Jen has her moments.
  • Death by Newbery Medal: It sure as hell feels like this, but Marley was actually Doomed by Canon.
  • Express Delivery: John writes that Jenny's second labor progresses so quickly that he barely has time to enjoy the amenities in the fancy hospital room before they have to go to the delivery room.
  • The Film of the Book
  • First Pet Story: Played straight in the movie. In the book, however, Marley isn't John's first pet (that would be Shaun, who actually has the book's first chapter entirely devoted to him), nor Jenny's for that matter.
  • The Hero Dies: Marley himself at the end.
  • In Name Only: The sequel, which is just an Air Buddies clone.
  • It Will Never Catch On: In a scene set in the early '90s, Jenny writes about the efficiency of voting machines. Did we mention this is set in Florida?
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Marley seems to be the canine version of this, although some of his actions suggest that he isn't really a jerk — just not that bright.
  • Keet: Marley is a dog version, especially when he's a puppy and actually fits the "small yet full of energy" description. Though when he gets huge he still has all the trope's characteristics except the small size.
  • Laughing at Your Own Jokes: John says that his boss told him not to end sentences with an exclamation point because it's like laughing at your own joke. John says that sometimes you need to laugh at your own joke, because it's funny.
  • Law of Inverse Fertility: Justified, this happened in real life.
  • Like Father, Like Son: In the book, it's pretty clear that Marley inherited most of his personality from Sammy, his sire.
  • Lyrical Dissonance / Soundtrack Dissonance: An acoustic cover version of "Lithium" by Nirvana plays when the Grogans relocate to a safer neighborhood.
  • Meaningful Name: John and Jenny's second son is named "Conor", an anglicized form of the Gaelic name "Conchobhar", which means "dog lover" or "wolf lover".
  • Mood Whiplash: What first seems like a lighthearted movie for kids turns into a tearjerker near the end when Marley falls fatally ill and has to be put down.
  • Named After Somebody Famous: Marley is named after Bob Marley.
  • Never Trust a Trailer:
    • This is not, repeat not, a slapsticky dog comedy for the kiddies.
    • Averted with the one for the sequel. That one is the slapsticky dog comedy for the kiddies.
    • Similarly, with the book. Kids naturally gravitated towards it because of the picture of the handsome labrador on the cover, but it isn't geared toward children at all. John Grogan recalls cringing from the dirty looks parents would give him at book signings, prompting him to write the tamer version cited above.
  • Obfuscating Disability: Discussed in the book. Marley, despite going deaf, is somehow still able to hear food-related sounds. Because of this, John suspects he may be faking his hearing loss so he can have an excuse to disobey commands, but after testing Marley's hearing a few times, he determines that he really is losing his hearing and just loves food that much.
  • Right Now Montage: Used with the John Grogan character, showing him doing different things and writing about them and at the same getting to know Marley.
  • Slice of Life
  • Sudden Downer Ending: See Mood Whiplash.
  • Timeshifted Actor: Done with the children. Conspicuously averted with Owen Wilson and Jennifer Aniston, who seem to remain ageless as their characters go from being a young couple to middle-aged parents.
  • Troublesome Pet: Marley, is very destructive and poorly behaved, and John describes him as the world's worst dog. It has been suggested that Marley suffers from a mental illness that makes him much more hyperactive than other dogs, but he's otherwise a loyal and loving dog to his family.
  • Two-Person Pool Party: Attempted with John and his wife, but interrupted with Marley jumping into the pool.
  • We Named the Monkey "Jack": Marley is named after Bob Marley.

Alternative Title(s): Marley And Me