A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this direct-to-video sequel to Marley & Me isn't anywhere near as emotionally wrenching as that family drama was. Also unlike the original movie, this one features a talking Marley and has a central teen character (a temporary dog sitter). A sweet grandfather-grandson relationship is depicted, and the importance of being a responsible pet owner is emphasized. The movie is appropriate for kindergarteners and up, but there are a few insulting words ("stupid," "lazy butt") and several dog-fart jokes.
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What's the story?
Anyone familiar with the original Marley & Me knows that the uncontrollable yellow Lab (here voiced by Grayson Russell) belongs to John and Jenny Grogan. But to facilitate this straight-to-video companion film, the Grogans are on a writing assignment and need their nephew Bodi (Travis Turner) to dog sit their puppy. Bodi's workaholic mom, Carol (Chelah Horsdal), is heading out of town for a leadership conference, so she drops Bodi and Marley off with her dad, the kind but disciplined Fred (Donnelly Rhodes). At his organized grandpa's with an unwieldy dog, Bodi hopes to prove that he's responsible enough to have a pet of his own, so he enters a puppy competition by training Marley and an elderly neighbor's two little Labs, Moose (Ryan Grantham) and Fuchsia (Lauren Lavoie).
Is it any good?
MARLEY & ME: THE PUPPY YEARS is an example of a sweet but ultimately unnecessary addition to the genre. But of course, Hollywood executives know very well that talking animals automatically attract pet-loving kids and their families. Marley is, as we witnessed in the original movie, an out-of-control puppy. But as if his own shenanigans aren't enough, here the filmmakers have created two more spunky canines to get in on the pranks. Kids will be amused -- the dogs are voiced by kids, do funny tricks, talk about farts, and are undeniably cute to look at -- but grown-ups will be underwhelmed by the paper-thin plot.
To pad out the lightweight storyline, the audience is introduced to a maniacal German dog-owner who's trying to sabotage the puppy competition, so his three pups will come out on top again. Hans (Alex Zahara) is stereotypically German and can't stand to lose; he even serves his dogs sauerkraut and sausage. Frankly, the best part of this movie is seeing veteran Canadian actor Rhodes -- who played the acerbic, chain-smoking Dr. Cottle on Battlestar Galactica -- again. The multi-generational banter between him and his on-screen grandson is refreshing (usually we're treated to kids complaining about their ancient, out-of-touch elders), but it's not enough to add any depth or emotion to this bland sequel. Still, if you're looking for an amusing but forgettable DVD diversion, this will do the trick for the kids.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the popularity of talking-animal movies. What's their appeal? Are they all entertaining, or are some better than the others? Why?
How does this sequel relate to the original Marley & Me movie? Do you think the two movies were intended for the same audience? How can you tell?
What does this movie teach viewers about keeping and training a pet?
- On DVD or streaming: August 16, 2011
- Cast: Donnelly Rhodes, Merrilyn Gann, Travis Turner
- Director: Michael Damian
- Studio: Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment
- Genre: Family and Kids
- Topics: Book Characters
- Run time: 86 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG
- MPAA explanation: some mild rude humor
- Last updated: September 21, 2019
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