The plot for a live-action Marmaduke movie is a no-brainer: Marmaduke, the beloved, gentle, dopey Great Dane from the comic strip, ascends the British throne after all the members of the royal family and every human being in the line of succession are accidentally electrocuted when they assemble on the wet lawn of Windsor Castle for a group photo. (Yes, this is basically the plot of King Ralph, but it's been far too long since a comedy opened with a mass elecrocution.) Marmaduke wears a crown on his adorable dog head, scratches himself while greeting heads of state, eats Beggin strips from crystal goblets, and in general wins the heart of the nation with his adorable dog king ways. Title: Marmaduke Of Wales DVD sales: $1 billion.
Surprisingly though the director of Marmaduke has decided to go in a different, angsty-er direction with his big dumb dog movie.
From USA Today:
Tom Dey is smiling at a wide computer screen in an editing studio at 20th Century Fox: A shy romantic greeting is unfolding between the hunky lead character and his soon-to-be girlfriend…
"We've approached the movie like a John Hughes movie with dogs," Tom Dey [director of Marmaduke] says. "The dog park is like high school for dogs. To make this kind of movie, you really have to understand that it is the dog's world and we just live in it."
The kinds of rich characterizations Hughes embodied in teenage stars such as Matthew Broderick in Ferris Bueller's Day Off translate to the Marmaduke story lines, Dey says, including one theme about "the vulnerabilities" of Marmaduke.
"Marmaduke is a teenager, and he's trying to find his way in the world," Dey says. "It's a boy-meets-girl story, a coming-of-age and cautionary tale. My job as director is to try to place the audience inside this world."
Marmaduke is like a teenager—self-conscious, insecure, struggling to pick an identity and not hump it, afraid of going to the vet to get neutered. Obviously there's a reason why the first draft of John Hughes' The Breakfast Club ended with, "You see us as you want to see us…but what we found out is that each one of us is a brain, and an athlete, and a basket case, and a princess, and a Great Dane."
Who knew that a movie based on a one-panel comic strip about a big dumb dog could have such layers? Tom Dey, that's who.
"I asked him if he could teach the dog to surf," Dey says. "Mike said he didn't know if he could even get the dog in the water. The Danes he's worked with in the past have not wanted to go into the water."
So a plot point is Marmaduke, who hates water, being forced to enter a surf competition to save face for his owner.
Of course. The classic, teenage, surf-competition-to-save-your-owner, coming-of-age story. Sounds like the movie's going to be equal parts My So Called Life and Air Bud. In other words: this movie can't miss. Other Marmaduke plot points include:
—Marmaduke gets a big zit and feels really self-conscious
—Marmaduke goes skateboarding
—Marmaduke goes to Let's Bolt and is totally ignored by stupid Jordan Catalano
—Marmaduke joins a football team and becomes their star player.
—Marmaduke gives his Doc Martens to a homeless angel
—Marmaduke plays basketball.