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<Movie Details
5 October 2011

They say you can't teach an old dog new tricks. But to say that this is the first run in movieland for cartoonist Brad Anderson's perennially popular hound, it's a shame the filmmakers don't even try.

Like the strip-to-screen transfer of Garfield, it's a bland and tokenistic affair in which our pet hero does a lot of what he's renowned for but with no more wit and much less invention.

Still, if you're eight or under, or you can't get enough of big mutts knocking things over, wearing sunglasses, and guffing in their owners' beds, you're in the right dog park.

Which is where Phil Winslow (Pace) meets his new boss Twombly (William H Macy) after moving his family from the midwest to Orange County. While they get down to business, Marmaduke is given a guided tour of the park by sassy mongrel Maisie (voiced by Emma Stone) and her timorous pals (Steve Coogan and Christopher Mintz-Plasse).

It's basically Canine High, with the various cliques ruled by the Pedigrees and their Rottweiler leader Bosco (Sutherland). So woe betide anyone caught sniffing around Bosco's lady, Jezebel (Fergie). Anyway, surely even a big galoot like Marmaduke can see that he's already found his soulmate?

The nature of acceptance, romance, friendship and family is gradually revealed as Marmaduke surfs, parties, and blunders his way into our affections. They wish.

Handed more corny canine puns than you can cock a leg at, you can almost see the pain in Pace's eyes as he and the rest of the cast struggle to enliven a script that never veers from The Hollywood Guide To Mid-Budget Family Fare.

George Lopez provides more fun than most as the Winslow family cat, but nobody gets the chance to make their vocal mark. Was that really a five-second cameo from David Walliams or just a ghost on the negative?

Wilson is simply miscast. If you're going to give Marmaduke a voice, make it a big, boisterous, arf-arf bellow, not a knowing, laconic, Wes Anderson comedy drawl.

At least with so many of Marmaduke/Wilson's musings being delivered to camera, director Tom 'Failure To Launch' Dey has ensured that the CG mouth movements pass muster. But the rest of the animation is distinctly mangy.

"It never gets old," chortles Marmaduke after his second fart. Yes, yes it does. As does the sight of Chihuahuas in handbags and rubbish animal dance sequences and the notion that pets enjoy being exploited.

Send it to the doghouse.