Directed by: Tom Dey | 87 minutes | comedy, family | Dutch voice cast: Ruben van der Meer, Anna Drijver, Kim Pieterse, Jörgen Raymann | Original voice cast: Owen Wilson, Emma Stone, George Lopez, Raugi Yu, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Steve Coogan, Stacy Ferguson, Kiefer Sutherland, Marlon Wayans, Damon Wayans Jr., Sam Elliott, Lee Pace, Judy Greer, Caroline Sunshine, Finley Jacobsen, William H. Macy
How much fun you will have as a viewer of ‘Marmaduke’ depends on your tolerance for talking movie dogs and lame predictable humor. The production, which is packed with CGI moving dog mouths and the accompanying ‘humour’, does demand a bit of your stamina. However, can you go along in this fantasy world and temporarily be convinced that the faithful four-legged friends have more or less the same mindset as people and are you in the intended target group (between 7 and 13 years and parents who have something for their children)? film based on an American newspaper strip can still have some fun. You won’t roll off your seat laughing and you won’t be surprised by the screenplay, but as a whole ‘Marmaduke’ is quite suitable for an afternoon of innocent movie entertainment.
Marmaduke is a Great Dane, such a huge oversized dog, who feels quite happy in the family where he lives. The Winslow family consists of a father, mother and three children, the youngest of whom loves the pet the most, but gets the least screen time. Moving the family from Kansas to California is a chance for Marmaduke to make a fresh start and boost his popularity (which is nil in the old hometown). Father Phil has a new job as a marketing manager at an ecologically responsible pet food factory. William H. Macey (whose comedic talent is unfortunately completely ignored) plays his demanding boss, who spends a lot of time at the dog park. There, Marmaduke meets a bunch of new friends and meets a bunch of snobbish pedigree dogs. This group also includes the attractive collie Jezebel, whom Marmaduke immediately falls in love with. But she is now the girlfriend of the evil leader of the purebred dogs, Bosco. Marmaduke desperately wants to stick with the popular dogs, but won’t he lose sight of his real friends?
Because the focus of the film is mainly on Marmaduke and his attempts to fit in, little attention has been paid to elaboration of the Winslow family. That’s why the family consists entirely of clichéd characters: The teenage daughter falls in love in sunny California with a cool and popular surfer dude, the son is forced by his father into a sport while he much prefers skating, father wants to break out of mediocrity and goes for a career where he forgets the needs of the family and assumes that they will be happy now that he brings in more money. The role of the mother is the least developed, but thanks to her sparkling appearance, Judy Greer knows how to give her faceless character something extra and she makes sure that the screen lights up when she appears on the screen. Lee Pace (who plays the role of the ambitious father) is, at just thirty years old, really too young to father a teenage daughter.
When you get the chance, watching the original is preferable to the Dutch dubbed version, because thanks to the voice of Owen Wilson ‘Marmaduke’ is a lot easier to digest. Wilson is particularly suited to this type of voice role. Kiefer Sutherland is also very active as Bosco. The joke density isn’t very high – and adults will hardly use their laughter either, but young children will find a dancing, surfing and windy dog to be comical. The tense scene at the end where Marmaduke has to be rescued from a sewer he ends up in because he heroically wants to save a girlfriend himself will also keep them glued to the screen. Admittedly, there is still a lot to haggle about in this film, but if you are looking for a pastime for annoying children, you will be able to score easily with ‘Marmaduke’.