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Monday, July 11, 2011

Monday Matinee: Marley & Me

Anyone who may know me especially well would probably say that I have a tendency to wear my emotions on my sleeve.  I tell things like it is, I try to feel empathy towards others if the situation calls for it, and depending on the tone of something, I can range from hysterical laughter to crying in loud sobs.

In most cases, I am not afraid to show off my emotions.

When it comes to the idea of watching movies or television shows, I tend not to be that way.  I don't know whether it is because the movie or television show is a fictional situation with fictional characters played by the beautiful people of Hollywood, or not.  I tend to not get overly emotional over watching a movie.

There are some exceptions.  It's hard to have a dry eye while watching Old Yeller, and the animated film 'All Dogs Go To Heaven' was a tough one to get through, especially when you consider the tragic fate of young Judith Barsi, who starred in the film.

And then there was the movie that I happened to stumble across on television late Saturday night.  It was the television premiere of this movie, and I found myself blubbering at the ending, which could best be described as one of the most emotional ends to any film that I remember watching.  Ever.

But, I'm getting ahead of myself here.

I've always said that movies that are based off of a work of literature can be quite difficult to pull off, and make into a movie that is just as good as the book.  Certainly, Stephen King novels have been translated into several movies, where some have been really good, and some not so much.  'Fried Green Tomatoes' and 'Mrs. Doubtfire' were box office success stories, while 'Confessions Of A Shopaholic' didn't really get much success in a critical venue (although, Isla Fisher is gorgeous)

(Ahem...just thought I'd put that out there for no other reason than that I can.  Hopefully Borat doesn't come and get me.)

Anyway, the subject of today's 'Monday Matinee' happens to be one of those movies that originated from a book.

Marley & Me was a 2005 New York Times bestseller, written by journalist/columnist John Grogan.  The book was all about his adventures with raising a yellow Labrador Retriever named Marley, who was described as the world's worst dog, due to his inability to be trained.  He's strong, he eats a lot, and chews up anything and everything that happens to get in his way.  Despite the challenges, the author ends up growing to love the dog, and how he happened to be there when he was having a family of his own.

The book was such a success that a movie version was made three years later.

On December 25, 2008, the motion picture Marley & Me was first released in theatres.  The movie starred Owen Wilson as John Grogan, Jennifer Aniston as Grogan's wife, Jenny, and twenty-two yellow Labrador Retrievers of all different ages and sizes as Marley.

The film was a huge box office success.  In fact, it set a record for the biggest Christmas Day opening ever with over fourteen million dollars in ticket sales alone. 

Though, I'm sure that none of you care about the logistics of ticket sales, or how the project came to be, so let's get right on with the plot of the movie.

The movie begins when John and Jenny get married in a blizzard, and decide that they want to start their married life in a warmer climate, so they move to Florida where both of them get jobs at competing newspapers.  Jenny seems to be fitting into her job quite nicely with prime assignments and byline pride, while John seems to struggle. 

Jenny seems to drop a couple of hints about motherhood, and John is a little unsure of whether they're ready for it.  At the suggestion of his co-worker Sebastian (played by Eric Dane), John decides that the couple should get a pet, to see if they can handle the responsibility needed to take care of a child down the road.

So John surprises Jenny with a trip to a farm where they meet a whole litter of yellow Labrador puppies.  Jenny immediately chooses one from the litter, and they decide to name it Marley after reggae singer Bob Marley whose song happened to be playing on the car radio the day they brought Marley home.

Unfortunately for John and Jenny, Marley isn't exactly the model dog.  He eats enough food to fill a Walmart pet food section, he tears apart pillows and stuffed animals, and even managed to get himself kicked out of obedience school!

In fact, here's the trailer for Marley & Me, just so you can have an idea as to what kind of mischief Marley manages to get into.

Yikes...they weren't kidding when they called Marley 'incorrigible'.

Regardless of which, despite Marley's rambunctious and mischievious nature, John and Jenny loved him with everything they had.  When Jenny had a miscarriage, Marley was there for her to hold on to.  When Jenny gave birth to their first child, Marley was just as excited to meet him as he was when he first came home with the Grogan family.

Marley also seemed to have a positive effect on the career of one John Grogan.  Seeing as how his reporting career wasn't exactly taking off, the editor of the newspaper he worked at offered him a column, which would be published twice a week.  Marley ended up providing a lot of the material for the column, and not only was his column a success, but the newspaper circulation increased significantly since John's column began.

Soon after, Jenny gives birth to the couple's second child, and develops a case of post partum depression as a result of it.  She finds herself getting snappy with John and Marley more often, and in a fit of anger tells John that she wants them to get rid of Marley.  John decides to let Marley stay with Sebastian for a few days until Jenny calms down, and once she does, she realizes that Marley's home is with them. 

Eventually, John's column goes from becoming twice-weekly to daily, which pays enough money for Jenny to become a stay-at-home mother.  John later relocates to Pennsylvania to take on a reporting job, which later becomes a chance for him to continue his column.

As the film winds down though, Marley's old age starts to catch up with him, and the Grogan family is left to make an incredibly difficult choice. 

Let's just say that there's a reason why I ended up blubbering during the last fifteen minutes of this movie.

But, you know, that's fine with me.  Having a pet is probably one of the greatest joys that one can ever have, in my opinion.  Marley may have brought a lot of frustration and inconvenience to the Grogan family, but Marley really did have a heart of gold, and he loved them just as much as the Grogan family loved him.

Still...when you're put in the position where you have to say goodbye to a pet, it can be quite hard on the owner to say goodbye, even if the owner knows that it is what is best for the pet.

It's something that I had to face myself last July.

This was my cat.  His real name was supposed to be Tom, but my niece who was two at the time we got him had knocked out her front teeth in a playground accident, and it came out as Ol' Thum, so the name stuck.

Ol' Thum came into my life during my Grade 12 year of high school, in the autumn of 1998.  In fact, he was the one who found us!  My father was doing some work out in the backyard of our house at the time, and was moving some things when he heard a faint meowing coming from the fence.  When my father investigated, this beautiful cat with a perfect white diamond shape above his nose came out of hiding. 

And promptly bit my dad's finger when he went to pet it.  Surprisingly enough, my dad didn't get angry.

Over the next four weeks, we used to set out some food on the back porch for the cat, who seemed to hang around.  It wasn't anything special...just leftover lunch meat from my lunches, and some chicken.  After about a month, the cat felt comfortable enough to enter the house through the kitchen door, and from there, he stayed.  He wasn't a kitten...the veterinarian estimated him to be four years old at the time, but he seemed to have had a rough go of it lately.  Because he had been fixed when he came into our lives, we figured that he had been abandoned by his original owner, and I think he was looking for a new family to take him on.

Having Ol' Thum come to live with us wasn't exactly all fun and games at first.  Ol' Thum was at first, quite uncontrollable.  He thought the whole house was his litterbox, and he scratched and bit us constantly throughout all of 1999.  I think that it was him trying to feel us out, and get to know where his boundaries ended.  By the new millennium, he had calmed down enough for us to keep him around for the long haul.  He even allowed us to let us rub his tummy and hold him, which a couple of years ago would have been impossible due to his defensive stance.

Over the dozen years we had him, he proved himself to be an awesome friend and pet.  If there was ever a mouse in the house, Ol' Thum would often dispatch of them for us.  If we were feeling down or sad, he'd pop up on the couch and snuggle up to us and give us a reassuring head bunt.  Oh, and one time, Ol' Thum happened to come across a nest of baby rabbits and he guarded them from the dogs that were in the neighbourhood.  Although it proved to be a futile effort, as none of them survived, he at least tried to be there for them, which I thought was a cool thing to witness.

There comes a time in which you know that nothing lasts forever.  Ol' Thum started getting sick shortly after Christmas 2009, and his weight rapidly dropped to the point where he was half his weight.  He also moved really slowly, and you could tell that he was in constant pain.

As hard as the decision was that we had to make, we knew that there was only one possible option to help end Ol' Thum's pain.

On July 15, 2010, Ol' Thum crossed the rainbow bridge.

It's been only a year since he passed away, but I still think about him.  He was such a huge part of my life for twelve years, and in those years, he made such a positive impact.  He was a wonderful cat, and as far as I'm concerned, there will always be a place in my heart for him.

Just like there would always be a place in John Grogan's heart for Marley.

There really is nothing greater than the love one has for a pet.  Although there may be more animals in my future, I'll never forget Ol' Thum.

A friend of mine made this picture for me, just two days after he passed away, and I think it's an appropriate picture to end this blog entry.


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