Dog's life works out fine for the kiddies
Marmaduke Children's; Starring Lee Pace and Owen Wilson (voice)
>BY MARK EVANS
Children's movies can be divided into two categories -- those, like The Incredibles and Shrek, which are more aimed at adults than tiny tots, and then the others, which are painful viewing for all but the most devoted parent.
While it's no Pixar blockbuster, Marmaduke falls firmly in the first category and is charming in its own low-key way.
Based on the long-running newspaper comic strip, it's all about family here.
Namely, the Winslows, with dad Phil (Lee Pace), mum Debbie (Judy Greer), kids Brian (Finley Jacobsen), Barbara (Caroline Sunshine), and Sarah (twins Milana and Mandy Haines), and, of course, pets Marmaduke (Owen Wilson) and his cat brother Carlos (George Lopez).
But it's not all plain sailing for this all-American clan as workaholic dad is uprooting them from their Kansas home to California for his dream job.
But dad's dream is everyone else's nightmare, and soon things go sour for Phil under new boss Don Twombly (a naturally dependable William H Macy), who's the new-age owner of an organic pet food firm.
Even Marmaduke's having a dog's life in LA.
Trying hard to fit in, he finds that there's a social hierarchy in the big city, with only the cool dogs getting the VIP spots in the local park.
He's soon consigned to the cheap spots with other losers, including tomboy Mazie (Emma Stone), brain box Raisin (Steve Coogan), and hypochondriac Giuseppe (Christopher Mintz-Plasse).
The top dogs, literally, are macho Bosco (voiced by Kiefer Sutherland) and his high-maintenance little princess (Fergie).
Along the way, you get plenty of dog surfing, reflections on friendship and the meaning of family and Marmaduke causing chaos when he throws a party for the cool mutts in his owner's house.
The CGI is good, and the animals will melt any little child's heart. It's not one for the over-10s, but Marmaduke will keep their smaller siblings happy for an hour or two.
DVD extras: Making-of, canine casting special and deleted scenes.