Based on the popular single-panel newspaper cartoon created by Brad Anderson and Phil Leeming, this is a live-action, kid-centric comedy about a huge, galumphing Great Dane and his hapless human family. It begins as workaholic advertising exec Phil Winslow (Lee Pace), his wife (Judy Greer) and their three children (Caroline Sunshine, Finley Jacobsen, Many/Milana Haines) make a cross-country move from Kansas to Orange County, California, where Phil works for demanding Don Twombly (William H. Macy), the president of an organic dog-food company.
Adjusting to the new, segregated dog park, Marmaduke (voiced by Owen Wilson) and his buddy Carlos, the Winslows’ Russian Blue cat (voiced by George Lopez), make friends with three mutts – skittish Giuseppe (voiced by Christopher Minz-Plasse), suave Raisin (voiced by Steve Coogan) and kind-hearted Mazie (voiced by Emma Stone). But when Marmaduke tries to hang with the “in” crowd, a.k.a. the pedigreed, particularly a coy collie named Jezebel (voiced by Fergie of the Black Eyed Peas), trouble brews. She’s already claimed by villainous Bosco (voiced by Kiefer Sutherland), a dominant Doberman who claims to be a surfing champion.
With a predictable ‘morality’ script by Tim Rasmussen and Vince Di Meglio and directed by Tom Dey (“Failure to Launch”), there’s not much that amazes except how well CG experts create mouth-movements that match the dialogue, particularly for a fierce English Mastiff called Chupadogra (voiced by Sam Ellliot). The best laugh line comes when a pooch proclaims, “It’s raining cats and us.”
Producer John Davis favors comic-strip adaptations, having achieved a modicum of box-office success with “Garfield” (2004), which spawned a sequel and several direct-to-DVD spinoffs. His next venture is “Gulliver’s Travels,” starring Jack Black, set for a December release, followed by “The Sims,” based on the computer game, and a movie version of “Mr. Popper’s Penguins.” Davis grew up in Hollywood as the oldest son of the late billionaire oilman Marvin Davis, onetime owner of 20th Century-Fox.
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “Marmaduke” is an insipid, lumbering 4 with a title character perpetually emitting noxious gas fumes.