Movie Reviews: Frost/Nixon and Marley & Me

The blog is closed today through Sunday; look for fresh, new neighborhoods posts again first-thing Monday morning.

However, if your holiday plans include a movie, Frost/Nixon and Marley & Me are a couple to consider…

Frost/Nixon works even when it shouldn’t, and you don’t have to be middle-aged or interested in history/politics to enjoy it. Director Ron Howard takes a video event few of us have ever seen (the 1970s original interviews between British talk show host David Frost and disgraced former President Richard Nixon) and turns it into a suspense-filled and thoughtful movie that never drags.
Frank Langella literally channels Nixon’s public persona and fills in the blanks with some behind-the-scenes information (some of it probably dramatized for the movie’s sake), while Michael Sheen plays a thoroughly engaging Frost, who bankrolls a made-for-film event that no one else seems interested in watching (perhaps kind of like this movie). The Rolling Stone review of the movie says it best: "A film version of a play about two talking heads. Please. It shouldn’t work at all. But it does work, spectacularly, as a matter of fact." Here’s a movie clip of Frost/Nixon.

Marley & Me is more predictable, more heart-tugging and more problematic. (Here’s a clip.) If you’ve read the book (I haven’t), you apparently know all about Marley, the irascible yet lovable dog. So you’ll be crying at the end of the movie (as my wife was) when the inevitable happens. Along the way, though, Jennifer Aniston and Owen Wilson play a couple of young marrieds eventually turned middle-aged parents who accompany the dog on its happy journey through life.

I thought I was going to see a movie about a cuddly dog who chewed and slobbered his way into his owners’ hearts, but the movie strangely just kind of assumed we knew all of that already. Instead, the movie seems overly focused on the lives of Anison’s and Wilson’s characters, engaging people working their way through the same life situations most of us do (marriage, careers and children), while Marley just kind of inhabits the fringes of the movie’s heart. Maybe when you have actors with the profile of Aniston and Wilson in a movie with the dog, you just can’t let the dog be top fiddle.

Anyway, if you like pets and/or liked the book, you’ll probably love this movie. If you didn’t, you’ll probably still like it but, like me, you’ll wish the movie had developed the dog’s character just a little bit more.


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