At first it seemed like Disney was prepared to take John Grogan’s story of life with his mischievous dog on a path that was only loosely connected to the book. Possibly it was just the skeptic in me looking for the worst. But once the film settled in, passed the wedding day (well, evening) of the Grogans, it actually stayed true to the book fairly well. Honestly, I’m not even sure the wedding day was not mentioned in the book. My concern was more about the tone that the film seemed to be setting.
The main device used by the movie producers that was not presented in the book was John’s best friend (or seemingly so) who was also a coworker for a time, Sebastian. I call Sebastian a “device” as his main purpose was to allow the audience to learn John’s thoughts, which surprisingly involved plenty of regret about the professional path he chose not to take. Sebastian popped in and out of the movie as his career continued to climb the ladder of success, at one time pursuing a big investigative story, which would make John a bit envious. In fact, there was more time spent on his doubts about becoming a columnist versus pursuing a career covering hard news stories. As a wannabee writer, I found it very interesting, and I don’t think it would detract from the movie for most people.
Of course, there was this dog in the story. I didn’t mean to give the impression that Marley isn’t the star of the show; he certainly is. As I wrote in my book review, the lovable dog spends plenty of time reeking havoc and being rather irresistible all at once. I will say I felt more attached to the dog when reading the book, and he’s not quite as irresistible in the film. There was just no way to fully duplicate the depth of the attachment displayed in the book between Grogan and his dog in film, which the reader tends to adopt as his own. Plus, I think there was something about seeing the destruction Marley wrought that made him just a touch less less lovable.
I was very hesitant about Owen Wilson and Jennifer Aniston playing the Grogans. They just seemed a bit too “Hollywood” to pull-off what I had read, and Wilson has a surfer dude quality for me. I never totally got passed feeling like Wilson had been pulled of the beach and told to play a family man, but overall they were both quite good.
Well, I warned you that I tend to focus on the differences between book and film in these circumstances. The ending still evoked plenty of emotion, and I have this gnawing feeling (no pun intended) that I’m being too harsh on the film. I don’t mean to be harsh at all. It was very enjoyable. The book was just better.