The funniest joke in the long-awaited live-action/CGI adaptation of everyone's second-least favourite comic strip Marmaduke is actually intentional, which is kind of impressive. Of course, it's not funny in the way that the filmmakers intended it to be funny so that's too bad I guess but it is actually a joke that is actually funny. Some connection had been made, through the layers of awful script and boring staging and legitimately creepy CGI. They intended to make me laugh, when they had the mean dog Bosco call out our Owen-Wilson-voiced hero in the middle of the hero's crowning moment, a big raucous "O.C. rager" of a party, icing our dog out with a growled, "Marmaduke? More like… Marmafake." And they did.
I laughed, I admit it. Marmapuke, Marmapoop, Marmadreck… there's a lot of ways the screenwriters could have gone, and they chose Marmafake, which…well dog-gone it, it doesn't even rhyme.
Notes: I also laughed when the filmmakers, seeking to set the tone after Marmaduke & family's big cross-country move to the O.C. from Kansas so the dad (Lee Pace) could work for a dog-food company with a mean boss (William H. Macy, for some inexplicable reason) by mixing "California" by Phantom Planet almost directly into "California Love" by 2Pac. I assume they'd spent all the soundtrack licensing money by that point, because they left out "California" by Belinda Carlisle and "California" by John Mayall and "California" by Joni Mitchell and "Going back to Cali(fornia)" by L.L. Cool J and "Hotel California" by the Eagles. Too bad.
Anyway Marmaduke is, we're told, a big, gangly goofy dog played by two or more real dogs in the film, that talks with a creepy CGI animated mouth. I'm pretty sure, at least, that they used more than one dog because sometimes Marmaduke has a big, dangly pair of testicles, and sometimes he doesn't, which is obviously problematic and I started thinking, while on-screen Marmaduke was having another interminable dialogue session with some other dog about something that to so brazenly, as filmmakers, use dogs with varying levels of testicle-havingness is kind of bold, almost as if they're saying "Yeah, sometimes 'duke's got nuts and sometimes he doesn't. We don't care, because nobody will notice, and if they do notice, it's because you're a perverted weirdo who both looks at and notes dog's nuts." Which left me feeling vaguely insulted, and terribly aggrieved.
So Marmaduke has some friends that are dogs and some enemies, and he makes some mistakes and eventually gets sad and runs away from his family and his haughty girlfriend, voiced by Fergie from the Black-Eyed Peas, who is actually a better voice actor than she is a singer. Marmaduke then falls into a sink-hole along with another funny-looking but faithful and nice dog (voice of Emma Stone) and then or perhaps before then there is a dog-surfing championship and everything is fine, even the sub-plots about 'duke's dad's mean boss and his kid that hates soccer.
Kids might like it, but I doubt it, as aside from being creepy and awkward and really poorly plotted it's just… dull. One of the first thing they teach you in screenwriting school is "show, don't tell", that expository dialogue is a no-no and narrators all the more so. But dogs can't really act, and they don't really do anything except run around and eat sandwiches so for the film to have a narrative structure the dogs have to talk, a lot, explaining everything, and because dogs don't drive or frame houses or fold clothes they talk while just… standing there looking around. It's hellaciously boring, but probably unavoidable as Marmaduke is clearly an intellectual property that fans have literally been screeching and rending their clothes to see brought to the big screen and given the ol' Hollywood treatment.
I don't have anything more to say about Marmaduke. 2/10
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