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ON FAITH & MEDIA View Comments

Marmaduke

By
Kurt Jensen
Source: Catholic News Service


Lee Pace stars in a scene from the movie "Marmaduke."
Young children might like "Marmaduke" (Fox), a comedy based on the adventures of the titular comic-strip Great Dane. Adults, on the other hand, are likely to find it about as charming as a bucket of doggie drool.

Director Tom Dey and screenwriters Tim Rasmussen and Vince Di Meglio unload a slapstick-laden story with Marmaduke (voiced by Owen Wilson) as a gangly adolescent attempting to fit in with canine cliques at a dog park that represents high school. A parallel plot has his human family, the Winslows, making the same transformation after they move from Kansas to Southern California where the father (Lee Pace) takes a marketing job for a pet-food company.

Most of the humor derives from the shopworn "he fall down, go boom" formula, as Marmaduke, with wisecracking cat sidekick Carlos (voice of George Lopez), navigates the shoals of high school stereotypes: the tough-talking Bosco (voice of Kiefer Sutherland), the pedigreed collie princess Jezebel (voice of Stacy Ferguson), and the funky gal mutt Mazie (voice of Emma Stone) who's just right for him if he'd only notice.

At the same time, Dad Winslow is adjusting to his quirky boss Don Twombly (William H. Macy), who is desperately trying to sign a national distributor for his organic pet food.

Since there are only so many ways that dogs can run around, fight and tear up furniture, Dey has their computer-animated mouths do a lot of talking. And, oh, do they chatter away. When they're not complaining or bullying, much of their dialogue consists of stale riffs on lines from other films.

The one brief evocative moment comes when the animals are mercifully silent. Marmaduke, beset by considerable troubles of his own making, runs away on a stormy night. On a lonely street, on a store window TV, he sees the Disney classic "Old Yeller." That tale has impeccable production values, sincere performances and a nontalking dog that has made audiences burst into loving, cathartic sobs for generations. Too bad these filmmakers couldn't take that as their inspiration.

The film contains some mild scatological humor. The Catholic News Service classification is A-I—general patronage. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG—parental guidance suggested. Some material may not be suitable for children.

*****
Kurt Jensen is a guest reviewer for Catholic News Service.


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Jacopone da Todi: Jacomo, or James, was born a noble member of the Benedetti family in the northern Italian city of Todi. He became a successful lawyer and married a pious, generous lady named Vanna. 
<p>His young wife took it upon herself to do penance for the worldly excesses of her husband. One day Vanna, at the insistence of Jacomo, attended a public tournament. She was sitting in the stands with the other noble ladies when the stands collapsed. Vanna was killed. Her shaken husband was even more disturbed when he realized that the penitential girdle she wore was for his sinfulness. On the spot, he vowed to radically change his life. </p><p>He divided his possessions among the poor and entered the Secular Franciscan Order (once known as the Third Order). Often dressed in penitential rags, he was mocked as a fool and called Jacopone, or "Crazy Jim," by his former associates. The name became dear to him. </p><p>After 10 years of such humiliation, Jacopone asked to be a member of the Order of Friars Minor(First Order). Because of his reputation, his request was initially refused. He composed a beautiful poem on the vanities of the world, an act that eventually led to his admission into the Order in 1278. He continued to lead a life of strict penance, declining to be ordained a priest. Meanwhile he was writing popular hymns in the vernacular. </p><p>Jacopone suddenly found himself a leader in a disturbing religious movement among the Franciscans. The Spirituals, as they were called, wanted a return to the strict poverty of Francis. They had on their side two cardinals of the Church and Pope Celestine V. These two cardinals, though, opposed Celestine’s successor, Boniface VIII. At the age of 68, Jacopone was excommunicated and imprisoned. Although he acknowledged his mistake, Jacopone was not absolved and released until Benedict XI became pope five years later. He had accepted his imprisonment as penance. He spent the final three years of his life more spiritual than ever, weeping "because Love is not loved." During this time he wrote the famous Latin hymn, <i>Stabat Mater</i>. </p><p>On Christmas Eve in 1306 Jacopone felt that his end was near. He was in a convent of the Poor Clares with his friend, Blessed John of La Verna. Like Francis, Jacopone welcomed "Sister Death" with one of his favorite songs. It is said that he finished the song and died as the priest intoned the Gloria from the midnight Mass at Christmas. From the time of his death, Brother Jacopone has been venerated as a saint.</p> American Catholic Blog By immersing our lives in the rhythm of the season, charity can flood our souls and fill us with the happiness for which we were created. We awake Christmas morning prepared to celebrate the birth of our Savior not as a memory but as a profound experience of God’s redemptive love.

 
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