Many young couples do it: Get a dog to give their parenting skills a test drive. John (Owen Wilson) and Jenny (Jennifer Aniston) Grogan, a 20something newlywed pair of newspaper reporters, get their Labrador retriever mainly because John's not quite ready to become a dad. So he surprises Jenny with a puppy for her birthday one year, hoping it will buy him some time. And the adventure begins.
We learn a lot about what's to come in the film from an opening scene you likely saw in the previews: a young boy frolics with his sweet dog in an open field while a voiceover says, "There's nothing like the experience of raising your first dog." But that's not the Marley or the Me referred to in the title. That's the dreamy ideal that gets quickly forgotten when Marley chews up half the car seatbelt on the way home from the puppy farm. As that opening scene unfolds, Marley bounds over the boy and his dog with John chasing him close behind, no doubt desperately trying to prevent Marley from eating the boy and his dog and every inch of waving grass in this lovely pastoral scene. "That's Marley, the world's worst dog," John's hangdog voiceover tells us, then adds, "Or so I thought."
Most of the film focuses on the "world's worst dog" part. Marley often grabs household items in his mischievous mouth—a bra, a necklace, a turkey leg—and runs out the front door with them, his owners in hot pursuit. He eats pillows. He eats the floor. He eats the drywall. He eats actual dog food three times a day. He gets kicked out of obedience school (Kathleen Turner makes a funny cameo as the frizzy haired, fanny-pack-wearing instructor). He terrorizes the dog sitter when the Grogans take a trip to Ireland. Basically, Marley's a big, furry, misbehaving ...1