According to the Owen Wilson voiced clumsily loyal Great Dane Marmaduke, a well-timed bit of flatulence never gets old. Unfortunately, if you're over the age of five and not a character in a talking dog movie, scatological humor is not just old but incredibly lazy and stale.
Namely gross-out gags are almost as comically uninspired as yet another pop culture filled chatty pet movie, especially when the film relies on spoofs of live action flicks for choice bits and has very little – if anything – to do with the nearly sixty year old newspaper comic strip upon which it's purportedly based.
Likable Pushing Daisies lead Lee Pace and the always charming Judy Greer play Marmaduke's alternately exasperated yet loving owners Phil and Debbie Winslow who shortly into the film pack up their three kids and feisty cat Carlos (George Lopez) and move from suburban Kansas to Orange County, California where Phil has accepted a job as the marketing director of an organic dog food company.
Aside from Phil's attempts to suck up to his new age boss (William H. Macy) and failure to recognize how difficult it is to adapt to California life for his two older children, essentially Phil and the rest of the Winslow family have their storylines pushed to the side in favor of Marmaduke's own struggles to become a top dog.
Undergoing a “mutt makeover” in order to fit in with the other pedigreed canines that dominate the pack at the local dog park who are ruled by the alpha-male Bosco (Kiefer Sutherland), Marmaduke turns to his fellow outsiders including Mazie (Emma Stone), Raisin (Steve Coogan), and Giuseppe (Christopher Mintz-Plasse) for help.
Alienating true friends and family in the quest for acceptance and success, Marmaduke's journey to discover what's truly important in life runs parallel to that of his owner's and sometimes intersects in a few action packed stunt heavy sequences that find both Winslow characters in the water first to surf and later to stage a rescue worthy of Old Yeller.
Unfortunately in sacrificing tenderness and old-fashioned family/pet bonding moments for over-the-top CGI and puppetry techniques along with clipped, catchphrase heavy, animal one-line puns such as “Cowabarka,” Marmaduke becomes a unoriginal and forgettable piece of commercial dreck that could've been so much better with a lot more heart and a lot less fart.
While it will probably play well to the Sesame Street set who won't be initially creeped out to see Marmaduke's lips move a la Disney's Buddies series of talking dog movies, older children will do much better exploring My Dog Skip.
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FTC Disclosure: Per standard professional practice, I received a review copy of this title in order to evaluate it for my readers, which had no impact whatsoever on whether or not it received a favorable or unfavorable critique.