out of Five
Running time: 82
While not quite as bad as it could have been, this is very much Hollywood-schmaltz-by-numbers, with a cliched script, lazy performances and a stream of unfunny gags, while the constant narration will try the patience of even the most dedicated Owen Wilson fan.
What's it all about?
Based on Brad Anderson's long-running single-panel strip cartoon, Marmaduke is directed by Tom Dey and stars Owen Wilson as the voice of Marmaduke, a chaos-prone Great Dane who lives in Kansas with his owners, Phil and Debbie Winslow (Lee Pace and Judy Greer) and their three children, Barbara, Brian and Sarah (Caroline Sunshine, Finley Jacobsen and Mandy and Milana Haines). However, when Phil gets a job in California with a pet food company run by dog-loving Harrison (William H Macy), the entire family relocates to Orange County and Marmaduke quickly clashes with The O.C.'s top dog, Bosco (Kiefer Sutherland).
Marmaduke gets help from a group of outcasts including Raisin (Steve Coogan), Giuseppe (Christopher Mintz-Plasse) and Mazie (Emma Stone), who has a crush on Marmaduke. However, the dopey Dane is smitten with glamorous Afghan Jezebel (Stacey Ferguson), who just happens to be Bosco's girlfriend.
The voice cast are actually pretty good and the film is saved from one-star ignominy by casting Kiefer Sutherland as Bosco and having him bark all his lines, Jack Bauer-style (a bit of a doggy treat for 24 fans). That said, the humans are completely wasted – Pace fails to stifle a “So it's come to this” expression throughout and it's sad to see Macy reduced to being repeatedly knocked over by a CGI-enhanced dog, while the always-excellent Greer (usually the queen of the sardonic wisecrack) isn't given a single funny line and even David Walliams has his comedy cameo reduced to a few shots in a training montage.
The cliched script deliberately riffs on The O.C. (in case this isn't clear, Marmaduke watches an episode early on), despite the fact that the show was cancelled several years ago; they've also clearly redubbed the infamous “Welcome to The O.C., bitch” line. On top of that, the majority of the jokes fall painfully flat (fart jokes: 2, butt-sniffing gags: a restrained 1) and Wilson's constant yapping quickly becomes annoying.
This isn't as bad as, say, Garfield or Cats & Dogs 2, but it's not really very good either. Bad Marmaduke! No biscuit!