A dog-awful mess that deserves to be dumped in the nearest litter bin
Marmaduke began life as a newspaper comic strip in 1954 and while I’m sure the Great Dane’s adventures were popular with many during his printed run, his life on screen has been far less inspiring.
In 2010, director Tom Dey (Failure to Launch) made a live-action movie featuring the enormous hound, with Owen Wilson providing the voice work for the character. The film was a flop with one movie critic calling it the “runt of the litter” when comparing it to other talking dog movies, including the vapid Beverly Hills Chihuahua.
In truth, movies featuring talking dogs rarely succeed so it’s a wonder why so many of them keep getting made. Of course, studio execs will probably say they’re doing it for the kids but this is little excuse for producing so many doggy flops (plops) that end up on our TV screens.
And here we are again with Marmaduke, the second go-round for the loveable Great Dane. This time the movie is fully animated and that might come as a relief to those who are tired of seeing real animals paraded around on screen for the sake of our entertainment. But is it any good? In short, no!
The problems begin with the story. In this one, a legendary dog trainer tries to teach the undisciplined dog some new tricks, all in an attempt to turn him into a hound that can compete at the World Dog Championship. It’s not that the plotline is particularly bad but as most of the runtime involves Marmaduke being away from his family home, we don’t get to spend a lot of time with the Winslow family, who were as much a part of the comic strip as Marmaduke was.
Still, if the writing was funny, any issues with the story could have been made bearable. Sadly, it’s all just a mess, with dialogue that barely raises a titter and a plot that relies on fart jokes instead of genuinely funny comedy scenarios. It’s dumb stuff which kids will probably tire of before the closing credits mercifully start to roll.
Then there’s the animation which, I’m sad to say, is absolutely awful. This is a surprise as Marmaduke is directed by Mark A. Z. Dippé, a former visual effects artist who worked on such movies as Jurassic Park, The Abyss, and Terminator 2: Judgement Day. Admittedly, providing visual effects for a movie isn’t exactly the same as creating an animated feature but with his credentials, I really did expect much better.
If you were to freeze-frame the movie, you could be fooled into thinking it is good looking. The art style is suitably wacky and it’s certainly very colourful. But when you hit the play button, what you get is plasticky animation that looks very stilted when in motion. It’s far from the likes of The Mitchells Vs The Machines which had slightly similar visuals but with characters that looked and moved far better within the computer animation techniques that were used.
So, what we get here is a badly animated movie with a poorly thought out story and little semblance of any comedy. It truly is a dog-awful mess that deserves to be scooped up and dumped into the nearest litter bin. I don’t know what JK Simmons and SNL’s Pete Davidson were thinking when they agreed to provide voice work for this as their talents far outweigh the script that they were given.
Of course, I’m an adult and far removed from the target audience that this movie will play to. But let’s get one thing straight here. There are far better-animated movies out there that don’t patronize their target audience.
Why let your kids watch something that fails to tickle both their funny bones and their brain cells when they could be watching something smarter and far more entertaining? There is little need, even for those kids that do chuckle at the sight of fart gas clouds and doggy drool!
Marmaduke is bottom-of-the-barrel stuff and has more in common with such movies as Norm Of the North and Foodfight than The Mitchells vs The Machines and Ron’s Gone Wrong. Heck, even The Emoji Movie is better than this and that failed effort featured talking poop!
There is absolutely nothing here for me to recommend so don’t bother with this one. If you’re looking for an animated dog movie, consider Bolt or The Secret Life of Pets instead of Marmaduke. Yes, those movies are a few years old now but they have more life in them than this tepid effort that has less meat on it than the bones your dog buries in the garden.
Verdict - 1.5/10