MIDWAY:Marley and me

Owen Wilson stars in this movie version of the bestselling heart-wrenching 2005 memoir by American journalist John Grogan about his family’s adored labrador, Marley. Brace yourselves, everyone, for the emotional final scene, when Marley faces the final curtain in the vet’s treatment room, with blond, bland Owen at his side. And in the cinema, all of us tough, cynical critics had tears welling in our eyes, swallowing hard; our lips, so often curled in a cheap sneer, were now trembling, because of the same sad thought: “Owen Wilson used to be really good” I took out my old VHS copy of Bottle Rocket, pressed it to my face and sobbed.

Marley is the doggy witness to 15 years of Grogan’s life: including marital crises, career hangups, daddy issues. Right up until the very end, loyal Marley goes on teaching Grogan one big life-lesson: the importance of love, unconditional love, the sort of love dogs give you. And hey — couldn’t we humans, so hotsy-totsy about our grand position in the chain of being, learn a thing or two from Marley? Wilson plays Grogan, of course, and two talented canines called Clyde and Jonah play Marley at the cute-puppy and cute-dog stages.

Oh, and Jennifer Aniston plays Grogan’s wife, competing with Marley for her husband’s affection with what seems to me abysmal lack of success. They say dog owners eventually look like their pets. But with his lustrous golden locks and expression of mute, bewildered pain, Marley ended up doing a very passable impression of Jen.

The idea is that John Grogan is a budding reporter on a Florida paper whose wife, Jennifer, is actually the better journalist with the better career. But she gives up her work to look after the kids. This is where Marley comes in, their lovable hyperactive labrador. John has been writing a little column about life with Marley and the readers love it!

So John’s editor, himself a bit of a grumpy old hound played by Alan Arkin, makes him do the column daily, for twice the money. Of course, the fictional Grogan demonstrates his manliness by being wryly bemused by this column he has to write and still pining for a tough Woodward-and-Bernstein career — as opposed to, say, gloating from day one about his upcoming movie deal.