Check all your expectations or prejudices about dog movies at the ticket counter: "Marley & Me” is something else entirely. And don’t worry — this pooch doesn’t talk. Director David Frankel’s elegant adaptation of John Grogan’s memoir does justice to the rigors of marriage and adulthood without getting into histrionics or worst-case scenarios, and a yellow Labrador just happens to have a key supporting role. "Marley & Me” begins in the early ’90s when newlywed journalists John (Owen Wilson) and Jenny (Jennifer Aniston) move to Miami, Fla., and buy their first house. Like so many pre-parental couples, they decide to take a test run with a dog, and their choice is a cute puppy that the owner is suspiciously willing to part with at a bargain-basement price. Marley turns out to be a sweet-tempered terror who can destroy any piece of furniture, freaks out during rainstorms, confounds all attempts at discipline and breaks the wills of all good dog-sitters. But John’s newspaper column, which often focuses on Marley’s canine indiscretions, becomes a hit; his experiences as a husband, father and dog owner resonate far beyond his doorstep. Frankel, who cut his directorial teeth on "Sex & the City” and "Entourage” but proved his real mettle with 2006’s "The Devil Wears Prada,” is not a showy director, but he knows how to tell a story with grace. He puts his actors through a marriage that hits most of the major signposts, yet nothing feels particularly rushed. The marriage goes through rough spots, grows and deepens — all believably. Wilson goes against his wild-card type as a believably responsible family man. "Marley & Me” covers a 15-year span, which should alert dog lovers there is tough sledding ahead. But fans of the book know how this ends: as a monument to how even a difficult-to-own pet can enrich a life.
"Marley & Me”PG-13 2:00 *** Starring: Jennifer Aniston, Owen Wilson. (Thematic material, some suggestive content, language)