"If you're a teenager and the world doesn't fit you, you're totally hosed."
And if you're making a movie about a chatty, teenage great Dane, you might as well give him the voice of Owen Wilson.
Marmaduke, the comic strip about life with a 200-pound canine, earns a dull but harmless big-screen comedy aimed at the youngest movie-goers.
Got kids? Be thankful this isn't in pricey 3-D. And be thrilled that unlike Beverly Hills Chihuahua, nobody will want to stop at the pet store and pick up a great Dane on the way home.
Wilson, who narrates and chats up his fellow members of the Housepet Kingdom thanks to digital assistance, gives the first 15 minutes of this a light touch, detailing life with his owner, "Dr. No" (Lee Pace, not funny), Dr. No's wife (Judy Greer, given nothing funny to do) and "the other two-leggers:" a boy he calls a "padawan," a teen sister and a toddler.
Then this Kansas family moves to Southern California, land of sun, surfing and status-conscious dog parks. Poor Marmaduke has to find "a new leash on life."
"It's like high school, for dogs," says Mazie (Emma Stone), the streetwise Queensland heeler. The dog-park cliques include airhead blondes (Afghan hounds), bullied small fry (dachshunds, Chinese cresteds) and mutts.
The pedigreed top dogs are led by the bully Bosco (Kiefer Sutherland), a Rottweiler-ish beast who surfs and keeps his collie girlfriend, Jezebel (Fergie), under his paw.
Marmaduke has to establish his place in the pack, learn to surf, help "Dr. No" get in good with his boss (William H. Macy) and figure out who his real friends are.
Even by talking-critter comedy standards, Marmaduke lacks mirth and imagination. Casting Wilson, fresh off Marley & Me (he wasn't the dog in that one) and George Lopez (playing his pal, the house cat) of Beverly Hills Chihuahua is no stretch. A dogs-trash-the-house scene is standard stuff, and the SoCal dog-surfing setting is just Hollywood geographical myopia.
Director Tom Failure to Launch Dey recycles the "pay attention to your kids the way your dog does" message from The Shaggy Dog, and bad puns ("cow-a-bark-a") pass for screenwriting.