Posted: 01/04/2009


Marley & Me


by Laura Tucker

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Before I became a writer I used to flock to movies about writers, but never really connected to it that way. I didn’t realize it was because I was watching movies about myself. Even though I now realize why I enjoy these movies, sometimes it still creeps up on me just how much it is me. I was definitely shocked to find that kindred spirit in the writer featured in Marley & Me.

I didn’t know that much about the story before seeing the film. I just knew it starred Jennifer Aniston and Owen Wilson, both of whom I always enjoy, and that it had a really cute dog in it, so I definitely needed to take my 12-year-old daughter that lives for all things dog. I knew I’d connect with this movie as a dog owner, but not as far as the type of writer I am.

Aniston and Wilson play married couple Jennifer and John Grogan, two writers at competing newspapers in Palm Beach. While she’s a feature writer, he seems himself as more of a news reporter. She has a plan of how their life should move along, and freaked out at the prospect of having a baby, John takes the advice of a friend (Eric Dane) and buys her a puppy, thinking he won’t have to do anything, and she’ll have something to take care of other than him and that it will keep her busy.

Jen is away on assignment on the day they are to bring the puppy home, so John goes to get the puppy alone. He’s trying to think of something to name the puppy on the way home and listening to the radio and hearing a Bob Marley tune, the puppy finds his name. The first night together is filled with bonding as Marley sleeps with John, unhappy in the cardboard box that was to be his bed. That’s how this guy that was only looking to get his wife off his back became half of Marley & Me.

Marley is more than just a typical puppy, as he gets himself in all sorts of trouble, including running around the neighborhood with Jen’s bra and chewing everything he can get his puppy teeth on. Kathleen Turner has a hilarious turn as a dog trainer, and even she can’t tame young Marley. She tells Jen and John that whoever assumes the natural control in their relationship should train Marley, and John quietly takes a seat behind everyone else.

Looking for a substitute columnist, John’s editor (yet another hilarious turn, this time from Alan Arkin) calls on him to fill in. John can’t figure out what he’ll write about and writes about what’s going on in head at that time, his escapades with Marley. He becomes very successful with this and soon takes over the column permanently writing about various things, usually Marley-related, and once he and Jen have children, the columns are about his family, Marley included. He yearns, though, to return to his reporting days, but is then told by an editor that he needs to remove himself completely. He’s no longer writing commentary. John tells him he didn’t mention himself once in his article, and his editor replies he can still “feel” John in there.

If you’ll notice here, I’m reviewing the movie that I saw, but not without connecting it back to myself. I can’t do that any more than John Grogan could. It’s who he is. It’s who I am. I learned that this movie was a true story, and was actually written by Grogan himself, collecting all those old columns together as a tribute to Marley.

Grogan did a fine job in that respect. Every time the puppy came on the screen there were collective awwws in the audience. The humor that was infused in the relationship between Marley and John raised collective laughter. At the end of Marley & Me, my daughter and I were walking out of the theater with tear-stained faces, and I would place my bets that we weren’t the only ones. It would seem that John Grogan finally learned he isn’t a news reporter so much as a storyteller of life.

Laura Tucker Laura Tucker is a freelance writer providing reviews of movies and television, among other things, at Viewpoints and Reality Shack, and operates a TV blog, What’s Hot On TV. She is also an Associate Instructor and 2nd dan black belt in tae kwon do with South Elgin Martial Arts. Laura can be reached at

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