Brad Anderson’s long-running saga of the melty-looking Winslow family and the gangling, interfering Great Dane that should’ve been put to sleep ages ago gets a film treatment, and once-mute Marmaduke gets expressive CGI-arched eyebrows and a voice provided by Owen Wilson. Relocated from Kansas to Orange County by master Phil (Lee Pace), Marmaduke tries to fit in at the new dog park. It’s like “high school for dogs,” explains a helpful mutt; why a dog would explain something in these terms is unclear, though it prepares us for an off-the-rack HS movie plot, as the hermitic one-panel strip opens up to a canine social world with its own strata, topped by purebreds, which Marmaduke must negotiate. In the parallel human B story, Phil spends a lot of time working to provide for his family. That thoughtful ‘Duke sabotages Phil’s professional life, but the rest of us can hardly forget the workaday world in this haze of Dog Gone Awful puns (“It’s raining cats and us”), surreal set pieces (“A surf competition for dogs?”), soundtrack poots, and a Sam Elliott-voiced mongrel maiming a dogcatcher off-screen, while Fox secures the rights to Hägar the Horrible.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on June 1, 2010