Even by kiddie movie standards, Marmaduke is a real dog

The one-joke newspaper comic Marmaduke, about a willful Great Dane and his beleaguered family, has been lampooned many times in its 56-year history, most recently in the “Comics Curmudgeon” blog, which imagines Marmaduke as a bloodthirsty hellhound — a much funnier concept than the one employed by Tim Rasmussen and his co-screenwriters, who portray Marmaduke is an insecure teenager in their film adaptation. The movie is a stale collection of bad puns (“I’ve got a new leash on life!”), dated slang (“Who let the dogs out?”) and doggy fart jokes, guided by a firm belief that dogs are more interesting when made, through digital manipulation, to speak like juvenile hipsters. The story has the Winslow family moving from Kansas to California, where dad Phil (Lee Pace), hires on with an organic pet-food company. Maladjusted Marmaduke finds himself competing for status among the denizens of the dog park, whose social strata are defined by bullies and pedigree-dominated cliques. The voice actors, including Owen Wilson as Marmaduke, George Lopez as his cat sidekick, Kiefer Sutherland as a thuggish “alpha dog” and Emma Stone as a lovelorn mutt, bring a certain charm, but the screenplay, even by kiddie-movie standards, is exceedingly witless, and the human actors, given very little to do, are trampled entirely by the dogs.