John (Owen Wilson) and Jenny (Jennifer Aniston) spend quality time with Marley.
Photo credit: Barry Wetcher
™ and © 2008 Twentieth Century Fox and Regency Enterprises. All rights reserved.
PG - some material may not be suitable for children
December 25, 2008
Owen Wilson, Jennifer Aniston, Eric Dane, Alan Arkin, Kathleen Turner,
Screenplay by Scott Frank and Don Roos; based upon the book by John Grogan
Twentieth Century Fox Film and Regency Enterprises
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'Marley & Me': Family Values on Screen
By Laura J. Bagby
CBN.com Sr. Producer
Hollywood isn’t one to portray happy heterosexual married life very often, and it certainly isn’t typical for Tinsel town to portray the values of commitment, sacrifice, and persistence in trying circumstances so glowingly on the silver screen.
But surprisingly that is exactly what you get when you go see Marley & Me, the new Twentieth Century Fox film starring Owen Wilson and Jennifer Aniston as John and Jenny Grogan, a young journalistic couple based in South Florida who invest their love, finances, and frustrations in a rambunctious Labrador they call Marley.
Said Jennifer Aniston referencing why she chose to do this film, “It wasn’t the girl trying to get the guy or the guy trying to get the girl and the chase where they ride off into the sunset. This is sort of the sequel where you get to see the ins and outs of a relationship and to see them over 15 years have this human thread that takes you through and have it be funny just because life is funny.”
And you thought you were going to see yet another cute light-hearted, dog lover’s flick! Don’t let that movie poster fool you.
As much as the focus of the film is on one crazy dog with his ridiculous antics, including failing dog obedience school, eating jewelry, stealing underwear, and tearing up couches, really the message of Marley is more about making a life-long commitment to those who might just try your patience, cost you dearly, and make you wish for your single days when you had less responsibility and a carefree lifestyle.
I love the way the film juxtaposes the stressed out, young married John Grogan with his fun-loving, devil-may-care friend Sebastian, whom he works with at the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. We see John continue to make the hard choices that require dedication and self-sacrifice while single commitment-phobic Sebastian takes the easy way out by staying a perpetual bachelor who gets to do all the exciting writing assignments abroad – much to John’s chagrin – continues to chase the available and attractive women, and never truly grows up.
Several times throughout the movie, John is presented with a choice. Get rid of his misbehaving dog and consider his needs above those of his wife and kids, or choose to love the life he has as a family man and loving dog owner.
The audience quickly realizes that as exciting as Sebastian’s life seems on the surface, in the end it is John’s life that is richer and more blessed because of those family memories and the unconditional love of one nutty dog. It is John’s life, not Sebastian’s, that we should vie for. And that, my friends, is a complete turnaround for Hollywood.
“I think that is one thing we all tried to embrace is to make a movie that is a portrait of a happy marriage and that, yes, there are ups and downs in the marriage and difficult times, but mostly it is about appreciating the choices you’ve made and appreciating the joys of family,” said director David Frankel (The Devil Wears Prada) at the Beverly Hills press conference for the film.
There is something so universal about Marley& Me, which is very closely based on the book by the same name. And Aniston captures the essential appeal when she said, “It is a true story and it is a very simple story. People go to movies and they escape with these big, crazy plotlines. And here is a movie where people are actually going ‘That’s me!’ or “I did that; I walked through that.’”
It is the process of life, the often messy journey that we see so beautifully portrayed in Frankel’s film. And at each stage on that journey, John and Jenny Grogan chose to stick it out, through thick and thin.
This persistence reminds me of one particular Scripture passage. Though the movie doesn’t intend to demonstrate this familiar biblical principle, it still rings true in the film. In James 1:2-4, the Bible tells us, “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing (NASB).”
The Grogans endure many trials with marriage and family not only intact but thriving. There is a peace, comfort, and maturity to their relationship that echoes years of making the right choices, even when those choices are painful.
How much more family friendly can a Hollywood film get?
Find out more about Marley & Me.
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More articles by Laura Bagby on CBN.com
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