Tuesday, 31 August 2010

The Thin White Dude's Reviews - Marmaduke

Having returned from France on Saturday (a great trip at that), I only think it appropriate that I resume my position as host, moderator and sole contributor to this blog. Also, my time in France has given me some musings, such as having turned a whole year older, so, with my blog now being "officially" uncut, I guess it's appropriate that I return for a new start. Finally, at least with regards to the appropriates (the resonate better in three's), it's also appropriate that I start my new "uncut" blog with a review for the film Marmaduke. Now, one of my good friends told me about this film at his house, condemning it on the basis of its advertisement. I had no knowledge of this, until about half-an-hour later, the fine promotional machine behind this film rolled out another airing of that same ad for the film. To be honest, even just from the advertisement, it looked ghastly. Going into this film, I had incredibly low expectations. I mean, talking dog movies with poo jokes and what-have-you are generally one of the lowest common denominators in film. However, it must be said that as much as I like to be proved right, deep down I was hoping that I was wrong, because although it is good to review a bad movie and flexes the vocabulary, for however long the bad film is during its duration it is a thoroughly unpleasant experience not for the weak of heart. So, did I enjoy this film or not? Will Marmaduke defy all expectations and actually be of all things, a good film? Is anyone taking bets that I will use another group of three before the end of the review? You tell me. I know all the answers and you don't. I'm just adding a degree of mystique and tension to keep you reading my review. Sorry if I sound both manipulative and self-indulgent. Anyway, the story follows Marmaduke, a huge Great Dane voiced by Owen Wilson in his adventures as he travels with his owners from their home in Kansas to California after Phil, played by Lee Pace, takes a job offer from Don Twombly, played by William H. Macy as a new marketing executive for his pet-food company. Right, obligatory plot filler over and done with. Fine, done and dusted, let’s get down to the crux of the review, if there is indeed a crux to be found in the case of Marmaduke. If, and only if. I haven't given anything away yet by any means. To start with the good about the film. Well, I suppose the dialogue in the interplay between Marmaduke and Carlos, voiced by George Lopez, are vaguely amusing. Also, if it's any consolation to anyone who actually might not enjoy this, it’s a short movie so your experience will not be wrought out any longer than ninety minutes. Saying that, and I am lifting the veil, ninety minutes of Marmaduke is about eighty-nine minutes too long for my liking, because Marmaduke... is... a... bad... film. End of story. For starters, each of the voice actors delivers mostly highly uninspired performances, their vocal presence being felt to be fair as much as their physical presence in the film: none whatsoever. If you think that's bad, you should see the human performances. What William H. Macy is doing in this film I can't quite figure out because he knows a good script when he sees one generally and is a fine actor. However, we also are honoured and privileged to bear witness to the mighty performance of Lee Pace as Phil. Pace seems to be attempting to deliver perhaps the most woefully boring and dull performance of all time. As marketing executive Phil (I know, marketing is not a good start in my books), it would be easy to say that he exudes an aura of sheer boring, plain and simple, but realistically, I can no longer tell if he has a presence, or if this terrible work is some piece of post-modern ironic satire which is beaming subliminal message via invisible pink lights into our brain. Jean Beaudrillard was so right, because thanks to folks such as Phil here, we can no longer tell the different between reality and simulation, blah, blah, blah. I'm thinking of all of the typical review traits and criteria by which to judge a film, but to be fair, it's hard to do anything objective and constructive whenever thinking of Marmaduke. Director Tom Dey may as well just be directing traffic, because he is just going through the proceedings of getting the film in the can. It's once again a classic case of lazy film-making at the utmost. The score and soundtrack to the film are also incredibly annoying, both managing to do so for completely different reasons. Starting with the latter, the soundtrack is exactly the type of typical cliché radio hits (even if some are good songs) that you would expect from a movie which is attempting to be appealing. Arnold Schwarzenegger must be happy with the extra publicity that this film has given California. With California Love by 2Pac and California from Phantom Planet, we by no means have a thoroughly realistic portrayal of California. This is the kind of glossy portrayal of California that, you guessed it, a marketing executive for a travel company would have come up with. The Shield this certainly isn’t, we're talking upmarket, undiluted American Dream California that most people never get to see. Also, the score is the type that fires out all the clichés in the book, with there clearly being no effort made to use sound to enhance the movie which needs it most. Instead, we have the typical "bouncy, bouncy, bouncy" music whenever we have the funny bits in the film, and of course we have the orchestra playing on the heartstrings telling us when we are meant to cry. As those who follow this blog know, I detest any score like this that is intrusive and belittles the audience by telling them subliminal what emotions they should be feeling. I can't stand any music in films which is as I call it "feel music", for I think it is so patronising and demeaning to an audiences intuition. And finally, we must deal with this, there comes the script. So often there comes a film which is good but unfortunately brought down by the script and the poor writing. In this case, it should meld into the background, because the entire film reeks of faeces anyway, but whenever you actually put thought into, the script is so much more in the upper echelons of rubbish than the rest of the film. The story takes the typical three-act structure and does nothing but obey that structure rigidly to the point that it's as though the writers Vince Di Meglio and Tim Rasmussen, who by the way, in case you didn't know, have done a terrible job here, are reading a really basic screenwriter's manual, because they certainly haven't been reading any Syd Field I tell you that. Dialogue wise, it is littered with completely unfunny puns and exchanges, in both the case of "funny" dialogue and basil-exposition stuff. And of course, things must be said about the films set-pieces. I would personally love clobber with a ring-binded copy of the script whichever one of the screenwriters (or both) wrote these awful, awful set-pieces. To give two examples, in the first case, Marmaduke proves to be a wiz on one of those arcade dance machines, and they dedicate a minute or two at least in this set piece (there's more later) to showing him dancing. Now I could watch an effect dance, alright, except the effect dancing is not funny whatsoever. Marmaduke jerks and wobbles all over the place, jumps up and down on the spot and does a spinaroony in a rabble-rousing finale before the smashing the machine to smithereens. Next set piece, through the most ridiculously contrived plot device (involving of course Phil, the Mighty Marketing Man), there is a dog-surfing competition which is won by (INSERT NAME HERE). You see what I mean. To follow along the same lines of the film, I will be self-referential and break the fourth wall, but I hope I have managed to raise at least one laugh, because I didn't laugh once in this film. The greatest reactions that this film could conjure from me were the occasional smirks that were interspersed in between the more than occasional deflating sighs from yours truly. You see, I've learnt something today: no I haven't, do we ever learn anything, but of course Marmaduke does, proclaiming so in a rabble-rousing speech to all the dogs. In summation of my review, I pose both a question and enforce a statement that I would love to see on the DVD sleeve when it comes out. The question: What is it with Owen Wilson and bad-dog movies? With jokes rife throughout regarding poo and dogs urinating in peoples drinks, but Marmaduke is not the filmic equivalent someone weeing in your drink, but hey, it's its own judge, jury and executioner, providing me this statement: Marmaduke is the filmic equivalent of finding a turd in your drink. FIN.

The Thin White Dude's Prognosis - 1.3/10

The Thin White Dude's Self-Diagnosis - Terminal

Footnote: Really to be truthful, my words try to make sense of the carnage. To be honest, a film is like The Matrix: no one tells you what it is, you have to see it for yourself. But for your own safety, please don't, because I don't what box office to give the executives an excuse for a sequel.

Footnote Deux: Recent film budgets

The Lives Of Others: $2 million

Let The Right One In: $4 million

The Wrestler: $6 million

The Hurt Locker: $15 million

No Country For Old Men: $25 million

Total: $52 million

Marmaduke: $50 million


Footnote The Third: Marmadook!
Quote: "The moment I saw Marmaduke's big drooling lips moving, I knew I was in trouble." - Roger Ebert.


Jack's complete lack of surprise said...

Hey, there. I know this is random, but I wanted to thank you again for what you're doing here. I was absent from the olde blogosphere for a couple of months, and coming back to your wit and eloquence feels like a red carpet return. So please, don't ever stop. You give me hope for the future of mankind.

P.S. I didn't see a review for Shutter Island here. I only mention it because it's one of my favourite films of the year, and I'd love to hear your opinion on it. I think you'd like it.

Peace out.

The Thin White Dude said...

I'm touched and flattered by the comment Jack, and I know everyone who gets compliments says all this phoney crap, but really I mean it. Normally I'm wary of any form of flattery and usually end up quite embarrased or annoyed, but this really made my day whenever I read it on Friday. And don't you worry, Shutter Island is on the cards somewhere down the line, being a fan of Master Scorsese. I missed earlier on the opportunity to review Shutter Island being on a leave of absence (aka lazy on absence) of a few months for my exams, but its out on DVD now or pretty soon here. Keep well and in touch. Peace out