Every summer, studio blockbusters vie for moviegoers’ attention with shiny, gold-plated sequels, remakes, and comic-book adaptations, but there’s always one movie that stands out as something everyone wants to see. Baseketball. The Love Letter. Lords Of Dogtown. Nacho Libre. License To Wed. My Sister’s Keeper. This year, all eyes are on one movie: The Queen Latifah/Common NBA-themed romance Just Wright. But since Just Wright comes out in mid-May, the next-best option is Marmaduke, the live-action adaptation of Brad Anderson’s long-tolerated comic strip about a Great Dane who exhibits non-doglike characteristics. Sometimes we don’t understand it—and for that, we turn to Joe Mathlete’s essential feature Marmaduke Explained—but the strip has been running in newspapers for almost 60 years, so it must be hilarious, right? That doesn’t mean it doesn’t need a fresh coat of paint, however. Based on the trailer, the film adaptation looks like it recasts Marmaduke as a transplanted “teenage” dog trying to fit into his new home in Southern California, finding romance as he struggles against bullying “pedigrees.” (But, you’re asking, aren’t Great Dane’s pedigreed? Stop thinking so hard.) Alas, not all blockbusters can be Marmaduke. So here’s The A.V. Club’s helpful guide to the movies coming out in the dog days of summer 2010, and how to distinguish them from Marmaduke.
What it’s about: Queen Latifah stars as a physical therapist, diehard New Jersey Nets basketball fan, and all-around great person who can’t find love. Common plays the Nets’ superstar point guard, another all-around great person who suffers a terrible knee injury and hires Latifah for private rehabilitation sessions. Will she rehabilitate his heart?
How it’s different than Marmaduke: Marmaduke can do a lot of things other dogs can’t: dance, drive a car, order things off the Internet. But he isn’t Air Bud. He can’t play basketball. What a ridiculous notion. How dare you even think it?
Chances it’ll be better than Marmaduke: 100 percent. Latifah and Common are sweet and likeable to a fault. And which is better, a bland, paint-by-numbers romance between sympathetic adults, or the butt-sniffing courtship of a Great Dane and a collie voiced by Fergie? The choice is clear.
Letters To Juliet
What it’s about: Amanda Seyfried stars as the neglected fiancée of a New York chef. While vacationing in Verona, she joins a group of women dedicated to answering letters written to William Shakespeare’s Juliet. Will romance follow? (Spoiler: Yes.)
How does it differ from Marmaduke? Though the Marmaduke strip easily lends itself to Shakespearean themes—that dog is downright Falstaffian in his enthusiasm for life!—he’s still a dog. When you get down to it, he’s more likely to show affection by mounting his lover’s hindquarters than writing her a letter.
Chance it’ll be better than Marmaduke: 50 percent. Letters To Juliet features the always-reliable Vanessa Redgrave and postcard-perfect Italian scenery. Marmaduke has a big funny dog. It’s a toss-up.
What it’s about: Making people forget about the Kevin Costner Robin Hood. Instead, director Ridley Scott and star Russell Crowe are apparently hoping potential viewers will associate Robin Hood with Gladiator (and to lesser extents, Braveheart and The Lord Of The Rings), all of which it strongly resembles, as Crowe-as-Robin leads a grim forest uprising against the evil Prince John.
How does it differ from Marmaduke? Marmaduke’s ongoing wacky destruction of his owners’ home is presumably just doggy high-spirited fun, and not part of a guerilla campaign to bring down a corrupt, oppressive regime. Maybe.
Chance it’ll be better than Marmaduke: 100 percent. While Robin Hood is likely to be an overblown echo chamber of a movie that warps the too-familiar Robin Hood legend into a different too-familiar “charismatic leader foments uprising” pattern, it still won’t feature sassy purse-dogs.
What it’s about: MacGruber looks to prove yet again that a gag that’s funny in 30-second installments is bound to be hilarious when lovingly massaged to feature length, as Will Forte’s clueless adventurer/MacGyver parody uses his flair for improvisation and invention to battle various bad guys.
How does it differ from Marmaduke? Can Marmaduke make an IED out of a Sprite can, duct tape, and Now & Laters? Actually, he probably can… but not as quickly as MacGruber’s title character!
Chance it’ll be better than Marmaduke: 80 percent. Writer-director Jorma Taccone is part of Lonely Island, the musical-comedy outfit responsible for many of Saturday Night Live’s best moments over the past five years. So there’s a real possibility that MacGruber will reach artistic heights unimaginable to It’s Pat, Superstar, and, of course, Marmaduke. Besides, Marmaduke essentially recycles the same joke over and over. The film and television branches of Saturday Night Live would never stoop to such tactics.
Shrek Forever After
What it’s about: Due to Rumpelstiltskin-engineered trickery, lucrative ogre Shrek is trapped in a universe in which he was never born. By the end of the day, he must win a kiss from his soulmate Fiona in order to make everything right again and keep DreamWorks Animation’s deathless money-machine running smoothly.
How does it differ from Marmaduke? Marmaduke doesn’t rely on time paradoxes and alternate universes so much as on the comic gold of a large, clumsy dog accidentally causing mischief.
Chance it’ll be better than Marmaduke: 70 percent. Marmaduke gives Steve Coogan an opportunity to live out his biggest fantasy: voicing a dog named Raisin in a big-screen Marmaduke adaptation. But Shrek Forever After’s voice cast includes Jon Hamm, John Krasinski, Kristen Schaal, and yet another Larry King cameo. (Plus no Fergie. So it has that going for it.)
Prince Of Persia: The Sands Of Time
What it’s about: The popular videogame series Prince Of Persia moves from the living room to the multiplex, with Jake Gyllenhaal playing a poor bastard (literally) who gets named heir to a kingdom and is tasked to join with priestess Gemma Atherton to swipe a time-control device from the wicked Ben Kingsley. Pirates Of The Caribbean producer Jerry Bruckheimer entrusts this potential franchise to director Mike Newell, best known for tasteful dramas and comedies, as well as one pretty good Harry Potter movie.
How does it differ from Marmaduke? It’s based on a videogame, not a comic strip. That’s a huge difference, right?
Chance it’ll be better than Marmaduke: 90 percent. Though huge hungry dogs create their own adventure everywhere they go, they can’t compete with swashbuckling warriors and seething class conflict. Possible mitigating factor: That mumbly Gyllenhaal kid as a muscular action hero. That makes about as much sense as casting a giant dog as a misunderstood teenager.
Sex And The City 2
What it’s about: Carrie (Sarah Jessica Parker), Samantha (Kim Cattrall), Charlotte (Kristen Davis), and Miranda (Cynthia Nixon) are back as martini-sipping, fashion-forward Manhattan friends who talk dirty, look for love, and rebel against the traditional institutions of marriage and motherhood that all but one of them have fallen into over the years. In other words, only the clothes have changed.
How does it differ from Marmaduke? A randy old dog playing the field? Marmaduke is such a Samantha! But even though Marmaduke has moved to the O.C. and has a verdant new lawn to poop on, a dog’s life is fundamentally humble and unpretentious. He doesn’t need to be whisked off to a glamorous hotspot like Abu Dhabi, the world’s premier playground for free-spirited women who want to flaunt their sexuality.
Chance it’ll be better than Marmaduke: 80 percent. The first Sex And The City movie was a significant drop-off from the modest pleasures of the HBO series: It was a 145-minute behemoth that replaced the show’s mode of raunchy jokes and small-scale observation with tear-filled romantic subplots. This actually looks worse, but it will still feature no talking dogs, plenty of nudity, and Penélope Cruz.
Get Him To The Greek
What it’s about: This spin-off/sequel to Forgetting Sarah Marshall focuses on overmatched flunky Jonah Hill and his comical misadventures in trying to get decadent has-been rock star Russell Brand to an important, potentially career-reviving gig. Shenanigans ensue.
How does it differ from Marmaduke? As this is a Judd Apatow-produced raunchy comedy about a drug-addled, hard-drinking pop star spiraling out of control, there will probably be slightly more narcotics and alcohol than in Marmaduke. Also, more Katy Perry cameos.
Chance it’ll be better than Marmaduke: 100 percent. Apatow has a stellar track record, and Brand stole Forgetting Sarah Marshall from a cast full of ringers and funny folks.
What it’s about: Katherine Heigl falls in love with clothing-averse mystery man Ashton Kutcher without realizing he’s a CIA operative targeted for assassination by friend Rob Riggle. It’s true love between Heigl and Kutcher, two of the most annoying celebrities of the past 20 years. But will they survive the honeymoon?
How does it differ from Marmaduke? We highly doubt that anyone attempts to murder Marmaduke in his movie, though stranger things have happened, and Marmaduke’s blood feud with rival Howard Huge has been the talk of the funny pages for decades.
Chance it’ll be better than Marmaduke: 80 percent. Does Marmaduke have just under 5 million Twitter followers? We didn’t think so, though we can only imagine the horrible things Heigl will say about the film a few months from now.
What it’s about: A big dog (voiced by Owen Wilson) moves to Southern California with owner Lee Pace. You’ll never guess what happens next! (He mostly chews on stuff and poops, based on the trailer.)
How does it differ from Marmaduke? It doesn’t. It is Marmaduke.
Chance it’ll be better than Marmaduke: 0 percent. -. Malkovich Malkovich.
What it’s about: Adrien Brody and Sarah Polley play fashionable, media-savvy mad scientists who introduce human genes into their experiments with animal DNA, ending up with a creature that looks like a cross between a fetus and a kangaroo. Writer-director Vincenzo Natali does a little splicing of his own, blending comedy, horror, and honest-to-goodness human drama as Brody and Polley bicker over what to do with their “child.”
How does it differ from Marmaduke? Both movies are about misunderstood creatures yearning to fit in, but Splice is more often about the struggles of coupledom and parenting, especially once the monster that Brody and Polley dub “Dren” begins to blossom into womanhood, dredging up Mommy Issues from Polley’s childhood.
Chance it’ll be better than Marmaduke: 100 percent. If only because Marmaduke lacks the horrifying wonder of a leaping, croaking girl-thing.
What it’s about: ”Ten years ago, a crack commando unit was sent to prison by a military court for a crime they didn’t commit. These men promptly escaped from a maximum-security stockade to the Los Angeles underground. Today, still wanted by the government, they survive as soldiers of fortune. If you have a problem, if no one else can help, and if you can find them, maybe you can hire The A-Team.”
How does it differ from Marmaduke? Marmaduke is a force of nature that disrupts other people’s best-laid plans. The A-Team takes an alternate stance on plans, and the coming-together of same.
Chance it’ll be better than Marmaduke: 100 percent. With Liam Neeson as Hannibal, Bradley Cooper as Faceman, Sharlto Copley as Howling Mad Murdoch, and Quinton Jackson as B.A. Baracus, The A-Team cast easily outmuscles that dog movie. Who does Marmaduke have? That guy from Pushing Daisies? Please.
The Karate Kid
What it’s about: This remake of the beloved 1984 hit takes the same fish-out-of-water premise about a single mother (Taraji P. Henson) and her son (Jaden Smith) moving to a hostile place, but moves the action from California to Beijing. Picked on by a group of high-kicking bullies, Smith takes lessons in self-defense from a kung-fu master played by Jackie Chan.
How does it differ from Marmaduke? Marmaduke has more in common with the first movie than the remake, since both are about outcasts who are uprooted from home and moved to upscale California. But while Marmaduke’s battle with the “pedigrees” parallels Smith’s struggles against local bullies, one might say that the pedigrees’ bark is worse than their bite. We wouldn’t say that, however.
Chance it’ll be better than Marmaduke: 90 percent. When it comes to lending their names to cruddy product for the whole family, the difference between Jackie Chan and Marmaduke is negligible at best. And the prospect of a new film from the director of Agent Cody Banks and The Pink Panther 2 doesn’t instill confidence. However, this simple premise has already been executed successfully. How hard could it be to do it again?
What it’s about: Laconic tough guy Josh Brolin takes on the role of DC Comics’ scarred Old West bounty hunter Jonah Hex, and John Malkovich plays his Civil War terrorist nemesis Quentin Turnbull in a movie that has had a troubled production history, to put it charitably. The Crank team of Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor wrote the original script and were going to direct, but bailed over creative differences. Animator Jimmy Hayward (of Horton Hears A Who fame) stepped in, though rumor has it that Constantine/I Am Legend director Francis Lawrence helped with the inevitable reshoots. Even the score is a cobble-job, mixing music by composer Marco Beltrami and alt-metal band Mastodon.
How does it differ from Marmaduke? Both characters have their origins in the comics and aren’t “pedigreed” per se, but Jonah Hex has more of a killer instinct. Marmaduke only shoots to wound.
Chance it’ll be better than Marmaduke: 80 percent. Jonah Hex’s hodgepodge of creative teams and the reported “tongue-in-cheek tone” are worrisome, though the cast—which also includes Michael Shannon and Michael Fassbender—is impressive enough to allay some of those fears. Plus, it’s Jonah Hex! How bad-ass is that?
Toy Story 3
What it’s about: The secret life of toys continues, as Woody, Buzz, and the gang accidentally wind up dumped at a day-care center when their owner, Andy, grows up and goes to college. But their bond continues, and the toys are determined to escape their new home and reunite with their old owner.
How does it differ from Marmaduke? While Marmaduke and his loveable doggy friends “speak” with the assistance of CGI mouths, the toys in Toy Story 3 are, miraculously enough, entirely CGI. Is there nothing computers can’t do?
Chance it’ll be better than Marmaduke: 110 percent. Pixar Animation is a reliable source of solidly crafted, thoroughly charming entertainment. Marmaduke is a reliable source of imbecilic jokes about a big clumsy dog.
What it’s about: What happens when writer-producer-star Adam Sandler makes a ramshackle lowbrow comedy as an excuse to hang out with buddies like Rob Schneider, Chris Rock, David Spade, and Kevin James? Find out in Grown Ups, a laugher about a high-school basketball team that reunites for its 30th anniversary over July 4th weekend.
How does it differ from Marmaduke? We’re guessing Marmaduke probably wasn’t pitched as “Happy Madison’s The Big Chill, only with more Viagra jokes.”
Chance it’ll be better than Marmaduke: 50 percent. Sandler can’t seem to take a baby step forward without falling about 10 steps back, so of course he’s chosen a punishingly generic, wildly unambitious buddy comedy as a follow-up to his fine, underrated dramatic performance in Funny People.
Knight And Day
What it’s about: Tom Cruise continues his career rehabilitation with this suspect action-comedy, in which he stars as a secret agent whose blind date (with Vanilla Sky co-star Cameron Diaz) leads to adventure and romance. Together, they must protect a powerful battery that could be used to fuel an infinite power source.
How does it differ from Marmaduke? Cruise’s shameless, puppy-like craving for love and attention aside, Knight And Day embraces a different set of dubious cinematic traditions. It combines ampersand-favoring buddy pictures like Tango & Cash and Homer And Eddie with the romantic bickering of nearly 25 years’ worth of Romancing The Stone rip-offs.
Chance it’ll be better than Marmaduke: 98 percent. The trailer looks dire, like something Cruise and Diaz would have passed on if their careers weren’t in such disarray. But Knight And Day is directed by the mostly reliable James Mangold—of Walk The Line, 3:10 To Yuma, and Copland respectability—and Peter Sarsgaard’s presence as a villain assures a few stolen scenes.
Ramona And Beezus
What it’s about: Beverly Cleary’s bestselling books about self-conscious adolescent Beatrice Quimby and her willful kid sister Ramona become a feature film at last, with Wizards Of Waverly Place star Selena Gomez playing “Beezus” and newcomer Joey King as the precocious Ramona. Even smarter casting choices: Bridget Moynahan plays their mother, and Ginnifer Goodwin (who looks a lot like Gomez) plays the cool aunt after whom Beatrice is named.
How does it differ from Marmaduke? Actually, if you split Marmaduke into his two opposing sides—the accident-prone galoot and the just-wants-to-be-loved high-school misfit—you’d end up with characters a lot like Ramona and Beezus.
Chance it’ll be better than Marmaduke: 85 percent. The slapstick and sentiment meters on both films will be set uncomfortably high, but Cleary’s original books are awfully charming, and hard to completely screw up.
The Twilight Saga: Eclipse
What it’s about: The dreary tale of a dreary girl inexplicably adored by vampires and werewolves alike continues in this third installment of the terrifyingly popular book/film series. Yet again, Bella is again in danger from an evil vampire, and yet again, she has to choose between her abusive vamp love Edward and her bullying werewolf friend Jacob.
How does it differ from Marmaduke? Marmaduke is blessedly short on interspecies romance and gothy teen-girl angst. Sadly, it’s also short on scenes in which Marmaduke and his doggy pals fight vampires in the chilly northern forests.
Chance it’ll be better than Marmaduke: 50 percent. Both films look dire to the point where their inevitable box-office success is depressing. At least no one is likely to walk into either film unaware of what they’re getting.
The Last Airbender
What it’s about: In this live-action adaptation of the first season of the popular animated TV series Avatar: The Last Airbender (some other movie stole part of its title), a young boy emerges from frozen sleep to find his world at war, and learns that he’s destined to reunite its warring clans of martial artists who control the four elements.
How does it differ from Marmaduke? Marmaduke is based on a comic rather than a cartoon. However, the two films are similar in that the very idea of an adaptation is odd: Marmaduke the comic is a series of predictable, disconnected gags without any semblance of a cinematic story, while Avatar: The Last Airbender was a terrific three-season series that isn’t going to lend itself well to being condensed down to three feature-length movies. (Even assuming that this first one makes enough money that the series continues, and doesn’t get scuttled mid-stream, à la The Golden Compass.)
Chance it’ll be better than Marmaduke: 99 percent. The Airbender trailers to date look impressive and showcase a vast world of pricey special-effects wonders, and the underlining story is solid. Still, director M. Night Shyamalan has never worked with this kind of mega-budget fantasy spectacle before, and he’s previously shown himself capable of undermining his own work via his signature airless tone and terrible handling of actors.
What it’s about: A dastardly villain (voiced by Steve Carell) squares off against another dastardly villain (voiced by Jason Segel) in a plot to swipe the moon. A who’s-who of contemporary comedy—including Russell Brand, Will Arnett, Kristen Wiig and Danny McBride—voices supporting characters.
How does it differ from Marmaduke? Marmaduke’s less evil than awkward. He doesn’t mean to ruin everything; he just can’t stop being freakishly large.
Chance it’ll be better than Marmaduke: 100 percent. This is the first feature from Illumination Entertainment, a group of talented folks who used to work in animation at Fox, DreamWorks, Disney, and Blue Sky, and judging by the ads and the caliber of comedians involved, Despicable Me looks like it could be appealingly off-beat, not stupefyingly broad like Marmaduke.
What it’s about: Remember the alien race that terrorized Arnold Schwarzenegger in the 1987 film Predator, then returned in sequels and spin-offs that nobody liked? Well, it’s back in Predators, a Robert Rodriguez-produced, Nimród Antal-directed sequel that drops a bunch of dangerous humans on an alien planet to serve as prey in the alien predators’ hunt. But will the hunted become… (Oh, we can’t even write the rest of that cliché.)
How does it differ from Marmaduke? We’re just going to guess that Predators features more aliens and bloodletting, but fewer wee-wee jokes.
Chance it’ll be better than Marmaduke: 100 percent. They say there are two types of people in the world: Those who want to see Adrien Brody and Danny Trejo blowing the shit out of some mean sumbitch aliens, and those who want to see dogs dancing. We’re in the former camp.
What it’s about: Honestly? We aren’t sure. Leonardo DiCaprio plays a character who can enter dreams or something. In fact, we know so little, we probably won’t even bother… Wait, Christopher Nolan directed it. Okay, never mind. We’re there.
How does it differ from Marmaduke? Maybe it isn’t that much different. An early draft of Marmaduke was told backward, à la Memento, and featured a noirish tone that entertained far weightier themes than one would expect from a Marmaduke movie. Or did we dream that?
Chance it’ll be better than Marmaduke: 100 percent. Marmaduke director Tom Dey also helmed Shanghai Noon, Showtime, and Failure To Launch. Nolan directed two Batman movies, Memento, Insomnia, and The Prestige. Two directors. Two track records. Adjust your expectations accordingly.
The Sorcerer’s Apprentice
What it’s about: Good sorcerer Nicolas Cage recruits hapless, disbelieving “physics nerd” Jay Baruchel as his apprentice in a special-effects-driven magical war against evil sorcerer Alfred Molina. While the trailers feature a notable lack of marching brooms, the story is supposedly based on the same Goethe poem that sparked Fantasia’s “Sorcerer’s Apprentice” sequence.
How does it differ from Marmaduke? Marmaduke does not feature Nicolas Cage. Thus there is a firm upper limit to how hammy, ridiculous, and over-the-top it can possibly be. The Sorcerer’s Apprentice stars Nicolas Cage. Thus… there is not.
Chance it’ll be better than Marmaduke: 100 percent. While Sorcerer’s Apprentice was produced by Jerry Bruckheimer, which suggests a Marmaduke-esque “more is more is not nearly enough” aesthetic, it was also directed by Jon Turteltaub, whose helming of the National Treasure movies suggests that he at least knows not to take this kind of risible material (or his risible star) too seriously.
Dinner For Schmucks
What it’s about: In this Americanization of the 1998 French farce The Dinner Game, Paul Rudd stars as a would-be executive who reluctantly agrees to participate in a cruel dinner party where everyone brings an “idiot” as a guest. Rudd finds the perfect candidate in IRS lackey Steve Carell, but their budding friendship complicates matters.
How does it differ from Marmaduke? The dog park may be “just like high school,” with the popular breeds bullying the mutts, but dogs are never as sadistic as the humans who use their computers to make them dance on their hind legs to “California Love.” That level of cruelty was at play in Francis Veber’s original film, and it presumably returns for this comedy of humiliation.
Chance it’ll be better than Marmaduke: 100 percent. In spite of the smooth farcical mechanics expected from the man behind La Cage Aux Folles, The Dinner Game was undone by naked contempt for its characters. And Hollywood has a poor track record for redoing Veber films. Cases in point: Pure Luck, Three Fugitives, and Fathers’ Day, among others. But the chances of a comedy starring Rudd, Carell, Zach Galifianakis, and Jemaine Clement being a complete dud are slim.
What it’s about: Angelina Jolie is a CIA agent accused of being a Russian spy. Is she actually a Russian spy? Hey, if we knew, would we tell you?
How does it differ from Marmaduke? Director Phillip Noyce was this close to making the movie with Tom Cruise in the lead role before Cruise backed out. Then the hero became a heroine played by Jolie. Similarly, Marmaduke began as a vehicle for Anthony Hopkins, who intended to play the role inside a lifelike, highly expensive dog costume. When early test footage creeped out audiences, Hopkins abandoned the project. After scrapping the dog suit, Marmaduke’s filmmakers decided, “Fuck it, let’s hire Owen Wilson and CGI the shit out of a real dog so it looks like it’s talking.”
Chance it’ll be better than Marmaduke: 100 percent. It just will be.
What it’s about: Beauty And The Beast gets remade Twilight-style: Alex Pettyfer stars as a rich, handsome, imperiously vain teenager cursed (by Mary-Kate Olsen, no less) to hideousness unless he can find someone—perhaps sympathetic love interest Vanessa Hudgens? —to see past his newly ugly surface. The story comes from a teen novel by Alex Flinn.
How does it differ from Marmaduke? Fewer depressing racial stereotypes, more Neil Patrick Harris as Pettyfer’s tutor.
Chance it’ll be better than Marmaduke: 99.8 percent. If nothing else, Harris’ presence promises at least a few bright moments in a film that otherwise looks intriguing but melodramatic, not to mention shot in that murky ubiquitous blue-black fantasy-film palette. Still, just as Marmaduke is ready to waste Lee Pace’s considerable talents, Beastly might similarly waste the usually reliable Harris.
Cats & Dogs: The Revenge Of Kitty Galore
What it’s about: Nine years after the children’s comedy resolved the age-old cats-vs.-dogs question in the latter’s favor, the canine and feline community team up to stop rogue spy Kitty Galore from taking over the world. Can this unnatural coalition hold for long enough to stop her?
How does it differ from Marmaduke? More cats, certainly, and the James Bond gadgetry is unique to this franchise. Otherwise, we can’t see any difference between Cats & Dogs 2 and Marmaduke, and that’s a terrifying prospect. One CGI-abusing live-action kids’ movie about the misadventures of celebrity-voiced pets per summer is exactly one movie too many.
Chance it’ll be better than Marmaduke: 40 percent. The trailer for Marmaduke instantly became the stuff of dubious legend, but does it really look much worse than a sequel to one of the biggest stinkers of 2001? (One pushing a blatant anti-feline agenda, to boot.) It’ll be a race to the bottom, but only one trailer includes the line “Someone’s having a bad hair day,” and it ain’t Marmaduke.
What it’s about: Set in the go-go early days of the Internet, Middle Men stars Luke Wilson as a businessman who gets drawn into the colorful worlds of pornography and organized crime.
How it’s different than Marmaduke: Marmaduke stars Owen Wilson as a big funny dog. He should not be confused with Luke Wilson, who is his brother. And a human being.
Chance it’ll be better than Marmaduke: 75 percent. In Middle Men, one character turns to another and says, “You know there’s nothing to jack off to on the Internet? “ No matter how bad Marmaduke is, it’s highly unlikely to contain that line.
The Other Guys
What it’s about: Pencil-pushing detective Will Ferrell and hot-tempered partner Mark Wahlberg spy an opportunity to follow in the footsteps of hero cops Samuel L. Jackson and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, but bungle the chance with comical consequences.
How does it differ from Marmaduke? Marmaduke has a rich inner life, but no one would even think about giving him a badge and a gun. Or would they? No, they would not… unless they did.
Chance it’ll be better than Marmaduke: 100 percent. Even at their very worst, Adam McKay’s writing and directing collaborations with muse/benefactor Will Ferrell (Anchorman, Talladega Nights: The Ballad Of Ricky Bobby, Step Brothers) are mildly amusing. Marmaduke probably doesn’t even aspire to mild amusement.
Step Up 3-D
What it’s about: In Step Up, a talented street dancer stepped up. In Step Up 2 The Streets, a different talented street dancer stepped up “2” the streets. In Step Up 3-D, a third talented street dancer will step up “2” the streets in 3-D! How exciting is that? We’re hoping for a climax in which the street dancers all twirl yo-yos at the camera in unison. Or possibly a cameo from Dr. Thumb.
How does it differ from Marmaduke? Like Marmaduke, Step Up 3-D features lots of dancing to inane pop songs, but in a defiant break from tradition, the hot-steppers in question are human rather than canine. Apparently people enjoy dancing nearly as much as CGI dogs. Strange but true.
Chance it’ll be better than Marmaduke: 100 percent. Dude, Step Up 3-D features mad talented young people stepping up. To the street. In 3-D! How can a film about a comically oversized pooch possibly compare?
Eat Pray Love
What it’s about: Elizabeth Gilbert’s bestselling memoir about rediscovering herself by escaping routine and pursuing pleasure in three countries gets the big-screen treatment. Julia Roberts stars as the Gilbert proxy.
How does it differ from Marmaduke? Marmaduke is lacking considerably in How Stella Got Her Groove Back-style uplift and vicarious satisfaction for career women bored with their rut and looking for exotic romance. (Unless they’re looking for really, really exotic romance. Eww.)
Chance it’ll be better than Marmaduke: 100 percent. C’mon, it’s Marmaduke.
What it’s about: It’s about Sylvester Stallone making another comeback, really. Stallone directs and co-stars alongside Jason Statham, Jet Li, Dolph Lundgren, Eric Roberts, and Mickey Rourke as a group of men whose lives mirror the class divides and shifting social conditions of Edwardian England. No wait. That’s Howards End. This probably has a lot more gunplay.
How does it differ from Marmaduke? It’s likely, but not confirmed, that none of the aging musclemen in the cast had to have their mouth movements added via CGI.
Chance it’ll be better than Marmaduke: 100 percent. It has Jet Li and it does not have George Lopez voicing a cat.
Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World
What it’s about: Fans of alt-rock and alt-comics alike finally have a superhero they can call their own with Scott Pilgrim, Bryan Lee O’Malley’s wide-eyed Toronto slacker fronts a band called Sex Bob-omb whenever he isn’t battling the seven evil ex-boyfriends of his new gal-pal. Michael Cera plays Pilgrim in Edgar Wright’s big-screen adaptation, which looks to emphasize O’Malley’s “life as a videogame” analogies.
How does it differ from Marmaduke? Marmaduke is for squares. The Scott Pilgrim graphic novels are for hepcats.
Chance it’ll be better than Marmaduke: 100 percent. With Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World, you can expect thrilling action choreography and low-key humor. With Marmaduke, you can expect step-dancing puppies. This conversation is over.
What it’s about: The good news? Bow Wow wins $350 million in the lottery. The bad news? Everybody in the projects knows about it, and he has to hold onto the ticket through a three-day weekend of threats and propositions before collecting his riches.
How does it differ from Marmaduke? Any associations with Marmaduke are entirely Bow Wow’s fault; after all, he’s the one who decided at an early age to use his canine moniker to draft off Snoop Dogg’s success. And he uses his own voice in Lottery Ticket, unlike co-star Ice Cube, who’s voiced by Bette Midler.
Chance it’ll be better than Marmaduke: 80 percent. In spite of a who’s who of popular black comedic actors snapping up the supporting roles—Brandon T. Jackson, Terry Crews, Bill Bellamy, Loretta Devine, and, er, Eddie Murphy’s brother Charlie—the trailer’s procession of gold-diggers and thugs looks strident and awfully predictable. But we trust that Bow Wow would never attach his name to anything disreputable.
Nanny McPhee Returns
What it’s about: Emma Thompson returns as the eponymous nanny, an anti-Mary Poppins who uses dark witch-like powers to keep her young charges in line. Maggie Gyllenhaal also stars as a harried young mother who enlists Nanny McPhee’s services to straighten out her children and their spoiled city cousins while Gyllenhaal runs the family farm.
How does it differ from Marmaduke? Nanny McPhee uses her dark powers for the benefit of children and their development into happier, healthier beings. Marmaduke uses his to teach kids an early lesson on the banality of existence.
Chance it’ll be better than Marmaduke: 100 percent. The first Nanny McPhee squandered a lot of promising elements (good source material, a great lead performance, and welcome turns by Angela Lansbury and Imelda Staunton) through its eye-searing production design and overly manic energy. But it wasn’t a plague on mankind, which puts it well above Marmaduke.
What it’s about: Through a series of wacky mix-ups, Jennifer Aniston accidentally uses the sperm of her best friend Jason Bateman to get pregnant. When Aniston sees how closely her son resembles Bateman, she begins to suspect that something is amiss.
How does it differ from Marmaduke? The Switch was adapted from a short story by Middlesex author Jeffrey Eugenides, whereas Marmaduke is the feature-film adaptation of an early Eugenides novella.
Chance it’ll be better than Marmaduke: 100 percent. Bateman is a stellar straight man, and the film has a surprising literary pedigree.
What it’s about: Recently paroled career criminal T.I. recruits Michael Ealy, Chris Brown, Paul Walker, Idris Elba, and Hayden Christensen for a huge heist that pits them against tough police cop Matt Dillon.
How does it differ from Marmaduke? Marmaduke looks primed to steal viewers’ hearts, while the larceny practiced by this film’s leads looks to be of the less metaphorical variety.
Chance it’ll be better than Marmaduke: 50 percent. Takers looks painfully generic, and nobody is going to buy T.I. as an ex-convict or baby-faced charmer Chris Brown as someone capable of committing a serious crime. Still, Marmaduke does set the bar awfully low.
Going The Distance
What it’s about: Drew Barrymore and Justin Long play a couple trying to maintain their passion for each other when she returns to San Francisco and he remains in New York City. Director Nanette Burnstein—whose previous credits include the documentaries On The Ropes, The Kid Stays In The Picture, and American Teen—aims for an earthy romantic comedy about the real-life concerns of young lovers, as opposed to the get-me-to-the-church-on-time fairy tales that have dominated the genre lately.
How does it differ from Marmaduke? The thought of Marmaduke romantically entangled with another dog is only marginally less creepy than the thought of Barrymore and Long making sweet, sweet love.
Chance it’ll be better than Marmaduke: 75 percent. We welcome the idea of a romantic comedy grounded in reality, though keep in mind that a Hollywood lifer’s idea of “real” is usually about as plausible as a talking dog.
What it’s about: Released in 1978, Piranha was Joe Dante’s low-budget, unapologetically trashy answer to Jaws. This 3-D remake comes from boundary-pushing French director Alexandre Aja (Haute Tension and the Hills Have Eyes remake) and stars Elizabeth Shue. Jaws star Richard Dreyfuss has a cameo. (Ah, the circle of life.)
How does it differ from Marmaduke? Well, they both have a lot of animals, though one movie’s beasts are more likely to be cuddly than the other.
Chance it’ll be better than Marmaduke: ? percent. This deep into the summer, it’s hard to tell better from worse. Both feature CGI animals engaging in antics. Beyond that, who’s to say?