One the face of it, Marmaduke looks like it could be a lot of fun. Adapted from the old comic strip of the same name, and with Owen Wilson voicing the titular central talking dog, talking animals comedies aren’t going to be winning an Oscar anytime soon, but they can be superficially entertaining, and a guilty pleasure when you’ve an afternoon to waste.
Taking up the slack just as great dane Marmaduke and his owners move to the bright lights and warm beaches of California, father of the family, Phil (Pace), is starting a new job at an organic dog food company. Left to his own devices in the company dog park, Marmaduke mixes with the canines of the entire staff, but in the new community he struggles to find his place in the hierarchy. After developing a crush on the girlfriend of alpha dog Bosco (Sutherland), the pair start to clash, which is all Marmaduke needed after just a few days in town.
With the rest of the family having similar troubles, they’re left to decide whether to really pull together and make a big push to their new life in Orange County, or call it quits and head back to Kansas, but if the excitable Marmaduke has anything to do with it, they won’t be throwing in the towel just yet.
Thoroughly silly, though that was always to be expected, Marmaduke will have kids laughing at the toilet humour from time to time and there are certainly some enjoyable elements over the duration. On the whole, however, this film is a little too simplistic to fully draw you in. Beneath the surface there is nothing more than the basic story and the creators fail to create any real pull to the central characters.
Sadly the narrative stutters from time to time, and in between the dramatical set pieces, it manages to feel a little long despite running just short of 90 minutes.
Owen Wilson does a decent job voicing the lead, pulling off a few more jokes than perhaps the script deserved, and the CGI implemented on the dogs mouths is believable if far from lifelike.
All in all, Marmaduke struggles to stand out ahead of any other talking animal comedy. It feels more like a Disney Channel movie than something commanding a full cinematic release. That said, you could do worse with young kids, and they’ll romp along with Marmaduke’s throwaway adventures, it’s just there’s much better stuff out there that will entertain viewers above the age of 10 too.