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by on August 28, 2010
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The latest in the straight-to-the-scrap-heap adaptations is “Marmaduke,” a wholly worthless mix of “Garfield” and “Marley& Me,” right down to the casting (okay, maybe just one; Owen Wilson played frustrated dog owner John Grogan in “Marley,” and gets to play the talking dog here).

The plot really isn’t all that important, but revolves around Marmaduke’s family relocating to California when his owner Phil (Lee Pace) gets a new job, so it’s a Great-Dane-out-of-water story (and if you think that joke was lame, wait ’till you see this movie).

Anyway, Phil works in pet food advertising (because, you know, he has a dog, so he must be obsessed with animals), and his boss (William H. Macy, making one for the kids) is kind of strange, so they meet at the bark park. Marmaduke gets mixed up in the canine pecking order.

The plot is so cookie cutter the blu ray packaging was practically heart-shaped. The voice work is night-school acting class improv quality, and talent like Wilson, Kiefer Sutherland and George Lopez is wasted (and yes, I recognize the irony of that last comment).

Instead of any kind of insight, we get the weakest, laziest of outdated references (at one point, a dancing Marmaduke quips, “nobody puts dookie in a corner”). I know the comic isn’t the most witty one in the world, but this is ridiculous.

It’s disheartening to see this level of film marketed to kids, mindless tripe that is as memorable as a hiccup as almost as fun. Even films like this, which are obviously tossed together, could be made with a modicum of care and forethought. This one feels like it was greenlit on Tuesday and by Thursday was ready to shoot with a full script. If there was any more work than that I feel sorry for the screenwriter and the studio that hired them.

Also included are deleted scenes, a gag reel, “canine casting” (which doesn’t shed light on how to cast an animal for a movie so much as just show a bunch of cute animals), a “Puppy Marmaduke and Kitty Carlos” home movie reel,  and a featurette on the surfing sequences. All of these feature the same dimwitted sensibilities the film itself does (in one deleted scene, Marmaduke throws a remote control in the toilet, causing the whole house’s electrical system to go on the fritz).

Don’t waste your time on “Marmaduke” unless you have young kids (like I do), but even if you do, file this one under “only if they beg.”