This weekend, Marmaduke hits the big screen. Not Brad Anderson's iconic, 56-year-old comic strip, mind you, but Tom Dey's film adaptation of the same name, starring Owen Wilson as the voice of the oversized Great Dane. It's early yet, but it already seems as though the film version of Marmaduke is on track to be one of the worst-reviewed movies of the summer, attracting notices every bit as unfavorable as those that greeted Sex and the City 2.
- 'Look Away' The A.V. Club's Keith Phipps opens his write-up thusly: "It’s tempting simply to note that director Tom Dey bookends Marmaduke with fart jokes, and leave it at that." But Phipps forges ahead with the review, calling out awkward casting, plot implausibilities, and the screenwriters' tic of adding "references to The O.C., 'Who Let The Dogs Out?', and other pop-culture items that were popular before their target audience was born. Those sorts of allusions, whether or not they make sense, are just a post-Shrek obligation now."
- Seriously Though, Enough With the Scatology The best lines in Wesley Morris's Boston Globe review are based on bodily humor, but that doesn't mean they're not witty: "When one of the last sounds you hear in a work of family entertainment is a Great Dane passing gas, there’s only one conclusion to be drawn. The movie hates your family. That’s fine, since it’s likely that your family will hate 'Marmaduke.'" Here's how Morris describes the movie's denouement: "We’re sent out of the theater with a closing-credits sequence in which a lemony liquid appears to spread across the screen. We’ve just been treated like a fire hydrant."
- Not Very Technically Impressive The New York Times' Stephen Holden sniffs at the "meat-cleaver editing and awkward, jittery computer-generated imagery."
- 'Dogs Cannot Talk' Roger Ebert, the lionized film critic at the Chicago Sun-Times, gets about 400 words into his review before giving up. "And then ... but enough. Why am I writing, and why are you reading, a review of a talking animal movie?" Ebert goes on to call the movie "not offensive" to the children who are its target audience, though he does puzzle over the decision to cast William H. Macy in a role that rewards none of the actor's strengths.
- Let's Just Get All the Puns Out of the Way Right Now At the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Joe Williams makes the kind of jokes you pretty much have to make when reviewing a film like this. "'Marmaduke' rolls over, plays dead," is the headline of Williams's piece. Then, in short order: "Among talking-dog movies, 'Marmaduke' is the runt of the litter ... Even by the pooper-scooper standards of summertime kiddie flicks, this little bow-wow is howlingly bad."
- 'An Awful New Low' Gary Thompson at the Philadelphia Inquirer doesn't mince words, calling the film a "lazy, witless pile of droppings." Thompson reserves special ire for the character of "the Latino sidekick, supplied by George Lopez as the family cat, who says things like 'Not to rub margarita salt in the wound, but...'"
- Why Was This Made Into a Movie? Movieline's Michelle Orange marvels at "Marmaduke’s total improbability as a feature film," given that it's based on "a creaky comic strip... [with] nothing but a running (56 years and counting) sight gag in its narrative quiver." Orange's heart bleeds for Macy, as well as the actors Lee Pace and Judy Greer: "Pace bears the brunt of the physical gags (trust that many humans eat dirt at Marmaduke’s whim), but Greer is unforgivably flattened by the funny-pages patter and lame human plot ... William H. Macy appears as Phil’s barefoot, Type A-hole boss, and I think my typing those words is punishment enough."
- What If It Were a Horror Film? Eric Snider, writing for Film.com, takes a novel approach. After admitting that he's not really writing a review, per se--"The sensible people at Twentieth Century Fox didn't screen Marmaduke in the places where Film.com lives, so we can't say for sure whether it's really awful or just sort of terrible"--Snider re-imagines Marmaduke as a blood-soaked horror flick. In his imagination, the titular dog is now a homicidal hellhound "the size of a horse... [with] a voracious appetite. FOR BLOOD. And also for Snausages but MOSTLY FOR BLOOD."
- Yup, He Went There Bruce DeMara's review for The Toronto Star veers into unexpectedly dark territory when he starts decrying the "the actors who lent their voices to this bone-headed effort, Owen Wilson — whom the tabloids reported attempted suicide three years ago — being the chief one. Did Wilson perhaps see into his own dark future, one in which he voices the role of a large, clumsy and not particularly interesting dog?"