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Movie Mom

Life is messy. And in this movie, that very important lesson is embodied by Marley, affectionately dubbed “the worst dog in the world” by his loving family. Jennifer (Jennifer Aniston) and John (Owen Wilson) Grogan are newlywed newspaper writers who have just moved to Florida. John’s friend Sebastian (Eric Dane of “Gray’s Anatomy”) tells him he can distract Jennifer from her desire to have a child by getting her a puppy. So he surprises her with a Labrador they call Marley after the reggae singer. Marley grows up to be big, omnivorous, and completely out of control, an obedience school reject, a destroyer of property, and an utterly devoted and utterly beloved member of the family. Yes, the movie has cute puppies and cute people, but it is not a soft-focus valentine that could be a commercial for dog chow. I like the way Marley is the most comic of the problems facing the Grogans as they struggle to adjust to the challenges that life brings to their plans and their marriage. John sees his friend Sebastian living his alternate life as a globe-trotting journalist with the glamor assignments and a new girlfriend every week (often with Marley acting as a chick lure). Jennifer sees John living her alternate life as she stays home with the children. They have to deal with other kinds of losses, a stillborn child, changes at work. Marley leads John to finding his voice as a columnist, a temporary sideline that becomes his truest calling.I never quite believed Wilson or Aniston as suburban parents but then I never quite believed their homes as being within the budget of a newspaper columnist. Wilson needs to develop more range of facial expression and Aniston needs to stop acting with her hair. But director David Frankel nicely evokes domestic chaos and the dog is irresistible.SPOILER ALERT: Parents should know that the movie ends very sadly when the dog dies and is buried. We see him lovingly put to sleep by the vet. The film also has some potty humor and mild sexual references and situations including implied nudity and some discussion of making babies as well as some discussion of “fixing” the dog and the body parts that are “fixed.” There is a very sad pregnancy loss and some postpartum depression. Characters drink and use some mild language.Family discussion: Families should talk about some of the pets that have meant the most to them. Why did the family love Marley so much?If you like this, try: “My Dog Skip” and “Because of Winn-Dixie”

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