A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that although the lighter side of this family-targeted dramedy was played up in the initial marketing campaign, it tackles serious themes like loss and mourning. While Marley's rambunctious antics will certainly amuse kids, there's some emotionally challenging material here. On the up side, there's not a lot of other problematic content; language is mild ("ass" and "damn") and sexuality is more implied than shown, though the characters do discuss topics like getting pregnant, and there's one nude swimming scene (but nothing much is on display).
What's the story?
Newlywed journalists John (Owen Wilson) and Jenny Grogan (Jennifer Aniston) leave Michigan winters behind in favor of Florida's sunnier climes, where they find themselves struggling to gain footing. When Jenny starts talking about a family, John asks his bachelor friend Sebastian (Eric Dane) for advice on how to distract her. Sebastian suggests a puppy -- and so Marley comes tumbling into their lives. As the rambunctious dog destroys their house, their car, and their social interactions, John decides to use his antics as fodder for his new newspaper column. His editor (Alan Arkin) loves the stuff, and John becomes a fixture in the South Florida journalism scene. Meanwhile, Jenny announces that she's pregnant, and their family drama unfolds in its tragicomic glory.
Is it any good?
Based on John Grogan's book, the heartwarming MARLEY AND ME successfully portrays what it's like when an abnormally exuberant family member takes center stage. Because, make no mistake, Marley is a full-fledged member of the Grogan family. Though he tests every limit possible -- chewing through the last threads of their patience and human dignity -- Marley teaches the Grogans about loyalty and undying love.
Audiences might be surprised at the emotional power that the film packs -- especially because it's being marketed as a family comedy -- but the effect is gratifying and real. And though Wilson and Aniston take a little while to hit their stride as a couple, overall the movie is a pretty seamless depiction of the arc of family life.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how challenging behavior can be frustrating but can also help families bond. When Marley destroys a couch or eats a beloved piece of jewelry, his owners fret over their material loss. But in the end, he's brought them together in a way that his absence wouldn't have allowed.
Are there members of your family whose behavior pushes limits? How much is too much?
- In theaters: December 25, 2008
- On DVD or streaming: March 31, 2009
- Cast: Eric Dane, Jennifer Aniston, Owen Wilson
- Director: David Frankel
- Studio: Twentieth Century Fox
- Genre: Comedy
- Topics: Book characters
- Run time: 123 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG
- MPAA explanation: thematic material, some suggestive content and language
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.