The 2008 comedy Marley And Me had all the makings of another great family franchise about the universal experience of pet ownership. Unfortunately, author John Grogan had to stay true to his “life” or whatever and [SPOILER ALERT, WE GUESS] end the film with the death of the titular Labrador retriever, thereby telling a story about how our limited time with the pets we love only makes the experience more special. Or something. Whatever he was going for, it totally screwed up any chance at cranking out more sequels about Marley’s misadventures getting lost while on vacation with his family in Hawaii, or briefly becoming a police dog after witnessing a mob hit, or meeting a nice lady dog and having a litter of puppies who are then dognapped by an evil real estate developer—you know, the stories that are the lifeblood of the industry.
Fortunately, Twentieth Century Fox has found a way around Grogan’s selfishness with the straight-to-DVD Marley And Me: The Puppy Years, a Godfather Part II-like prequel that will fill in the blanks on all those lost chapters of Marley’s life before he rose to power in the rough-and-tumble hallways of Owen Wilson and Jennifer Aniston’s unlikely large house. (The film is, oddly enough, co-written and directed by Michael Damian—the former soap star turned “Rock On” singer turned filmmaker specializing in straight-to-video family sequels like Flicka 2.) This prelude returns to a happier time, picking up when Marley is just a “pint-sized pup,” so it lacks a Wilson or Aniston to vocalize their loving frustration with Marley’s rambunctious antics.
But the filmmakers have prepared for that contingency, as Marley not only coincidentally pals around with a “Bodie Grogan” as they conspire to “wreak havoc” on a neighborhood dog contest, he also “now has a frisky voice and an attitude to match,” allowing Marley himself to offer running commentary on his own that-darn-dog-ness. Of course, your enjoyment of said friskiness may be sullied by knowing that, eventually, Marley dies. But then, so do we. So do we.