Marley & Me
Dir David Frankel
When John Grogan released his best-selling 2005 memoir recounting his misadventures raising a rambunctious labrador pup named Marley, it was immediately destined for a movie makeover. The resulting release is a heartwarming crowd-pleaser about learning to navigate and appreciate life’s unexpected turns.
Owen Wilson stars as John, a Florida reporter eager to develop his career, but his wife, Jen (Jennifer Aniston), wants to start a family. So to stunt her plans he surprises her with a yellow lab, who quickly turns their simple existence into chaos. Eventually, the Grogans have kids, but as the characters grow, Marley remains their grounding force while the world spins around them.
Although Wilson and Aniston share a terrific chemistry, Marley’s the one who steals the show, enthusiastically fulfilling his world’s-worst-dog role with a hilarious performance that even cat people will appreciate. The ending is predictable, but be sure to bring several boxes of Kleenex. Marley’s demise isn’t graphic, so kids won’t be too traumatised (at least no more than mum or dad), and the slightly nauseating, but nevertheless true, takeaway lesson applies to audiences of all ages: ‘A dog judges others not by their colour, creed or class, but by who they are inside. Give him your heart and he will give you his.’ Who knew a doe-eyed pup could be so wise?
Paul Blart: Mall Cop
Dir Steve Carr
King Of Queens funny-man Kevin James takes on the role of the mild-mannered, heavy-set security guard who gets no respect from the patrons he’s charged with protecting (there’s no end of fat guy jokes, which may amuse younger patrons). When a band of brutes takes over the centre and holds its customers hostage, Blart must tap into his inner street cop to bust the gang. This fat slice of pie-in-the-face humour aims to elicit giggles, but even eye-rolling tween cynics will likely enjoy the film: the group of burglars consists of skateboarding/parkour stars, so expect some cool tricks.
Hotel For Dogs
Dir Thor Freudenthal
Sixteen-year-old Andi (Emma Roberts) and her younger brother, Bruce (Jake T. Austin) have a passion for pups – especially their own doggy, Friday. Unfortunately, their new foster mother (Lisa Kudrow) doesn’t. So, with some clever construction work, the kids turn an abandoned hostelry into a fancy refuge for strays – complete with self-sufficient Rube Goldberg-esque feeding and bathing systems for the residents. Based on the book by Lois Duncan, this puppy-packed flick is a sure thing for caninophiles.