Satisfying only to pet-porn junkies whose tear ducts can't even withstand a 365 Ferrets a Year calendar, the movie version of John Grogan's bestselling memoir lacks a crucial ingredient: any sense of what made its hero, a warm and fuzzy Terminator of a Labrador retriever, different from any other table-smashing, necklace-swallowing dogzilla on earth. Played in this canine I'm Not There by a succession of impostors at various stages of life, Marley never develops a personality beyond generic mutt-goes-nuts antics—and without that crucial spark of soul, all director David Frankel (The Devil Wears Prada) delivers is a Beethoven movie with less shedding. Instead, the career changes, family crises, and midlife moping of human leads Owen Wilson and Jennifer Aniston relegate Marley to a lifestyle accessory in his own biopic. (That's OK, buddy—a pet skunk gets more attention here than Wilson and Aniston's three kids.) Apart from Aniston's sick anticipation of a sonogram reading (a moment that belongs in another, better movie) and a depiction of postpartum stress close enough for Advil, Marley & Me proves how lifeless Lady and the Tramp would have been if told from the p.o.v. of Jim Dear and Darling.
Aniston succumbs to the puppy.
Marley & Me Opens at Metro and other theaters, Thurs., Dec. 25. Rated PG. 123 minutes.