Marmaduke first debuted in June 1954 from creator Brad Anderson. Since then, the character has managed to endure and has received a live-action take starring Own Wilson. That film proved to be semi-successful, pulling in over $80 million worldwide on a $50 million budget. Which is why it isn’t surprising that Netflix decided to make a new, animated Marmaduke film for all-ages. Unfortunately, though, it often stumbles over itself as it struggles to decide if it wants to go for heart or entertainment.
The story itself is pretty typical for Marmaduke. Wherever he goes, chaos ensues. Which is why in the beginning of the movie, he’s left inside of the house as the family celebrates the youngest child’s birthday. In typical Marmaduke fashion, however, he soon finds himself at the center of the party and not necessarily for the best reason. Sure, it’s amusing, but it loses its appeal quickly. It feels as though the movie tries to sell a joke every other second, and it forgets to remember to have heart.
After causing a massive scene at the son’s party, Marmaduke somehow makes it onto the local news due to a “pool flop fail.” As the news anchor dubs the dog impossible to train, we see the world’s best dog trainer, Guy Hilton, decide to take on the ‘impossible’ task as a means to win a dog competition. It’s ridiculous, and the training montage that follows shortly after is even less entertaining. Perhaps it is Pete Davidson‘s voice work, or maybe it is the script, but the movie falls apart at this point. The entire casting for the film is a choice, but Davidson is an odd choice to voice Marmaduke. While he undoubtedly is comfortable with comedy thanks to his work on Saturday Night Live, he just feels miscast as Marmaduke.
The one thing the film did right was cast J.K. Simmons as Zeus, the movie’s big bad. Sure, the character is annoying, but Simmons does such a great job in his vocal delivery. It’s one of the better performances in an otherwise stilted film. But even with Zeus, it feels like the film took the easy way out in handling the bad guy.
Overall, Marmaduke makes a lot of odd choices throughout its one hour and sixteen minute runtime. There are moments that are heartfelt, and those moments are great. It’s just a shame that the film never truly knows what it wants to be, because had there been a tighter hold on the story? Marmaduke could’ve been a homerun for Netflix. That isn’t to say Marmaduke is completely terrible – it’s likely children will enjoy it, which is perhaps the most important thing. Unfortunately, though, Marmaduke is easily forgettable and feels as though it was rushed into production.