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“Marmaduke” Opens Today — Most Reviewers Think it’s a Dog

Marmaduke, a gigantic Great Dane, has major flatulence issues in the new eponymous movie opening today. According to reviews, if you like humor based on...

Maria Goodavage  |  Jun 4th 2010


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Marmaduke, a gigantic Great Dane, has major flatulence issues in the new eponymous movie opening today. According to reviews, if you like humor based on smelly and loud gas, you might want to check it out. If you’d prefer to see something a little closer to the spirit of the long-running one-panel newspaper cartoon, it may not be your kind of film.

I haven’t seen it, so I won’t pass judgment. But I’ll bring you a couple of review excerpts from writers who sat through it and lived to tell about it.

From a New York Times review by Stephen Holden

The 200-pound Great Dane who lumbers through Marmaduke just cant help himself. When his owners, Phil and Debbie Winslow (Lee Pace and Judy Greer), are snuggling in bed, that darned dog (voiced by Owen Wilson) has a habit of noisily releasing gas that is noxious enough to erase any immediate prospects of romance.

There you have the conceptual bottom line of this live-action movie based on a long-running newspaper cartoon and directed by Tom Dey (Failure to Launch). Like most movies aimed at the kindergarten set, Marmaduke balances its giggly, gross-out gags with a stern moral agenda.

From a New York Daily News review by Joe Neumaier

If “Marmaduke” achieves anything, it’s that it makes this past spring’s “Furry Vengeance” look like a masterpiece by comparison.

A live-action adaptation of the one-panel cartoon seen in newspapers since 1954, “Marmaduke” thinks that simply animating housepets’ mouths will make it funny. But even to the under-7 crowd, that trick wears off fast; today’s savvy kids need a witty script, an actual story line and human characters who aren’t merely accessories. Unless you’re the Son of Sam killer, having a dog talk to you for 89 minutes will likely make you drool from boredom.

Owen Wilson, not satisfied merely co-starring with a dog in “Marley & Me,” loses any edge he had left by voicing the title pooch.

Most reviews I’ve read have similar reactions to “Marmaduke” (rated PG). But to be fair, it took an unbelievable amount of work to get the dozens of animals in this movie to make a movie instead of a big mess. An interesting article in the San Diego Union-Tribune describes the challenges, and lets readers in on a little-known industry secret: meat glasses.

Huggable, slobbery George, a tan 140-pound Great Dane who loves his leggy octopus toy, and his equally food-fanatic 150-pound half-brother Spirit, share the title role of Marmaduke, although the fur-fest set went to more than just the big dogs.

Imagine this kibble bill. In all, some 80 canine actors, several cats, and 30 animal trainers were involved in the live-action comedy about gawky teenager Marmaduke (voiced by Owen Wilson), a family pet who hangs out at the cliquish dog park and parties in the O.C. with four-legged friends who surf, date, dance and play the Twister game.

Long before cameras rolled, head animal trainer Mike Alexander began scouting for the supersized scene-chewer to star as Marmaduke, a rascally comic strip character enjoyed by newspaper readers for 56 years. He found 2-year-old nonactors George and Spirit with a Washington breeder (their personalities complemented each other, says Alexander, noting that dog thespians often have at least one double) and started 16 weeks of training to teach them a trove of tricks, from how to drop a remote control in the toilet to how to hang 10.

As is often the case with pooch performers, the little things were the most difficult, like getting the dogs to look a human co-star in the eyes.

Thats where the meat glasses come in. Theyre like sunglass frames with no glasses in them and with a piece of fork between the eyes, Alexander says.

The fork holds a chunk of bait, such as a piece of chicken, steak or cheese. During rehearsals and sometimes right before a take, the two-legged troupers in the scene with Marmaduke (the human cast includes Lee Pace, Judy Greer and William H. Macy) wore the glasses to train the dog to look into his or her eyes.

Sometimes, we actually just have the actor hold a piece of food up on their forehead. We teach the dogs to watch the food, not necessarily to go after it, Alexander says.

Will you be going to see it? If so, please let us know how you like it!