Tom Dey has never proven himself to be an especially subtle filmmaker, having directed Showtime, Shanghai Noon and Faliure to Launch. But Marmaduke is something else, something far broader and (therefore) more kid-friendly, placing it right in the same ballpark as Fox's other talking-animal flicks like Garfield and Alvin and the Chipmunks (that is to say, temporarily diverting for children; more or less torture for grown-ups). The under-ten crowd will no doubt delight by the goofy voices, the doggy dancing, the sprinkled-in scatological stuff, while the adults ... well, for any adult, to watch Marmaduke is to stare into the gaping, digitally-enhanced maw of fluffy mediocrity for a ninety-minute stretch of valuable lifetime.
The once mute-yet-meddlesome Great Dane has now become a chatty teenager (voiced with adequate charm by Owen Wilson), now uprooted from his comfy Kansas life to Southern California when owner Phil (Lee Pace) moves his family to take up a new job with an organic dog food company run by Mr. Twombly (William H. Macy, not eccentric enough). Marmaduke finds the new dog park to be equivalent to a new high school for him, with all of the cliques that such a basic idea entails. Mazie (Emma Stone) heads up the outcast mutts like Marmaduke, while alpha dog Bosco (Kiefer Sutherland) lords over the area like any good pedigree would. If you suspect that Marmaduke might then upset the order of things by becoming popular and, in the process, upsetting both his new love interest and the local bully... well, you'd be exactly right. This stuff really does write itself, and that's not a compliment.