Film review: Marmaduke, another film that kicks working dads.

If you walked out of the cinema thinking Marmaduke was very familiar, you’d be right. You saw virtually the same film at the beginning of the summer when Brendan Fraser starred in Furry Vengeance.

The raw ingredients – a harassed father moves his family across country because of his work. So busy is he trying to keep his job that he fails to recognize that his family is miserable in their new home until some animal-related revelation drives him to discover that the most important thing is family.

Yes, I know that Marmaduke is a movie about a supposedly-funny oversized dog. But I could point you to several reviews that will more articulately tell you what a steaming pile of dogshit the ‘animal’ part of this movie is. It’s lazy, it’s unoriginal, it’s clearly aimed at young undiscerning kids, but has a high school for dogs storyline that involves doggy bullying and doggy romance. Yawn.

But what really has me riled up is the realization that these two movies (and more if we cared to dig around) take some really cheap potshots at working fathers. It boils down to “they’re so dumb, always trying to please their boss and ignoring their families’ needs”. This makes people seem so horribly one-dimensional. Aren’t these men trying to earn a living to pay for all the nice gadgets and junk their pampered kids have? 

Presumably, not content with having the best of everything (as provided by sycophantic Dad’s wage), they inexplicably want some of his time now as well? 

Neither Phil Winslow in Marmaduke or Dan Sanders in Furry Vengeance appear to be even enjoying their jobs. They don’t seem to be climbing the corporate ladder either, just clinging on to their jobs by the skin of their teeth. How about alternative endings to both those movies where both fathers abandon their jobs, spend lots of quality time with their families, but ultimately have to sell all their stuff and live in poverty?

I just don’t understand why well-meaning fathers are in the firing line here. My father worked in a low-paid, heavy labour job. He worked the usual 9 to 5 (plus commute time) and often did odd jobs at evenings and weekends to scare up some extra cash for birthdays and Christmas. What’s so evil about that? 

And what’s more, there are more realistic figures that Hollywood could take a few justifiable cracks at:

  1. What about the fathers who work extra hours to avoid going home to their families? Who come home and barely grunt at their wife and children? The fathers whose jobs have become a way to escape a family they’ve grown tired of.
  2. What about the idle stay at home mothers who socialise and have a whale of a time while the kids are at school, then complain to their husbands about the hard day they’ve had, insisting that staying at home is just as much work. I’m not saying that all stay at home parents are like this, but I know some who pretend that their day has been rampant drudgery when in fact they had a gossipy two-hour lunch with their gal pals.
  3. What about the type of parents who buy their children lots and lots of stuff so that they’ll never have to actually engage with each other? The parents who had kids to tick some kind of societal checklist but who don’t really want to be bothered with them? Buy them stuff, salve your conscience, but completely starve them of affection.

What I’m trying to say here is that there are plenty of valid targets to piss on with your tedious family films. I think we need to acknowledge that earnest, hardworking parents don’t deserve to be portrayed as idiots. That might work for the kids, who don’t understand how their iPhones and DS Lites appear under the Christmas tree, but it’s vastly insulting to adults who work to feed and clothe their familes. 

Shame on you, Hollywood.

I’ll finish with a fantastic quip by a Guardian reviewer, who said Marmaduke is “suitable for kids, but only as a punishment“.

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