Marmaduke: From Comic Strip to the Big Screen

Marmaduke, the world's most lovable Great Dane, leaps from comic strip fame (appearing in 600 newspapers in over 20 countries) to the big screen.

In this family comedy, the super-sized dog who never fit in, finally finds a place where it's okay to stand out. Now living large in Orange County, California, Marmaduke is helping his family make the big transition from the Midwest to The O.C. But he's also discovering that fitting in with his new four-legged friends isn't always easy for a 200-pound teenage dog.

Lucky for Marmaduke, he doesn't have to go it alone because he always has his "step-bro" and best pal, Carlos, a Russian Blue Cat, watching his back.

Owen Wilson is the voice of Marmaduke and George Lopez voices Carlos in MARMADUKE. Wilson, a gifted comic actor, counts among his recent box-office hits the 2008 holiday treat "Marley & Me," in which he played the owner of a mischievous pooch. Now, as the great Great Dane Marmaduke, it's Wilson's turn to wreak havoc on a hapless family (and also come to their aid when the going gets tough). "There's an interesting symmetry with those two roles [in MARMADUKE and "Marley & Me"]," Wilson admits. "But to be honest, it's coincidental that those parts happened so closely together. I took on the voice of Marmaduke mostly for the chance to work again with the film's director Tom Dey, with whom I had done [the hit Western action-comedy] 'Shanghai Noon.' When we discussed MARMADUKE and Tom's ideas for the film, it all clicked for me, and in no time at all I was channeling my inner-canine to voice Marmaduke."

According to Dey, Wilson's role in "Marley & Me" might have had more to do with the actor agreeing to portray Marmaduke than Wilson admits. "Owen was the last voice actor cast because Marmaduke was the most difficult to cast," Dey remembers. "I had read the script and Owen had told me over dinner that he had a great time working with the dogs on 'Marley & Me.' I told Owen I had been trying to cast Marmaduke, and Owen smiled and said, 'Maybe I should do Marmaduke. We laughed! And ten months later, he was Marmaduke."

Renowned actor-comedian-talk show host George Lopez also found himself in a kind of "turnabout-is-fair-play" casting situation when he accepted the voice role of Carlos the cat, having less than two years earlier voiced a character in "Beverly Hills Chihuahua," as Papi, a street-wise dog who falls for a pampered Beverly Hills pooch. "I figured I'd give the cat world equal time, in MARMADUKE," says Lopez with a grin. "Whatever the species, I enjoy giving the characters I play some attitude and fun, and Carlos has no shortage of both."

The unexpected friendship between Marmaduke and Carlos – MARMADUKE presents a cat and dog not only living together harmoniously under one roof, but who are best pals – provides some of the film's biggest laughs and a lot of heart. "I loved the relationship between Carlos and Marmaduke," says Lopez. "Most people think dogs and cats can't coexist, but those two are like brothers. Carlos is always there for Marmaduke, even to help him with his crazy schemes."

Marmaduke's crazy schemes are part of his ongoing efforts to help his family (the "fam" as he calls them) succeed in their new O.C. surroundings, while he finds his niche among the neighborhood canines. But it's not going to be easy for Marmaduke. Being a teenager can be rough, especially the parts about trying to fit in and figure out who's cool (and who's not). And being a 200-pound dog…well, that exponentially increases the degree of difficulty of teenage life.

Marmaduke's new "leash on life" in The O.C. begins promisingly enough. Tooling down the Pacific Coast Highway with his owner Phil, the sunglasses-wearing Marmaduke sticks his head out of the car's sunroof, enjoying the SoCal sunshine. But soon enough he gets a whiff of the challenges that lie ahead during his first sojourn to the dog park. This is ground zero for dogs to meet, socialize, catch up on the latest, and conduct pressing matters of "business."

The park is nothing less than high school…for dogs.

Just like secondary schools for those walking on two legs, the dog park is rife with cliques: the "Jocks" – dogs whose main interests are catching Frisbees and dating I.Q.-challenged Cocker Spaniels; the "Drama Geeks" who love to act and put on a show; the "Juvenile Delinquents" – a rough-looking bunch who like to hang out by the park fence; the "Mutts"–mixed breeds from the wrong side of the tracks; and the "Pedigrees" – rich and spoiled who don't think their meadow muffins stink.

The dog park as high school theme resonated for the MARMADUKE cast and filmmakers. "I really liked the idea of Marmaduke being this overgrown, awkward teenager who's trying to fit in at his new town and 'school,'" says Owen Wilson. "And the notion of the dog park as a kind of high school for canines was a lot of fun. Everyone's been to high school and almost everyone has a dog, or at least loves dogs. So there's a lot for audiences to relate to with MARMADUKE."

"MARMADUKE is reminiscent of the teen angst films of the 1980s," adds producer John Davis, who certainly knows his way around stories centered on animals with special abilities, having produced "Dr. Dolittle" and "Garfield," among many other box-office hits. And count director Tom Dey as another fan of the classic films about high school life, no small number of which were helmed by the legendary John Hughes. "I grew up with movies like [the Hughes directed or produced] 'Some Kind of Wonderful,' 'Sixteen Candles' and 'Ferris Bueller's Day Off,'" says Dey. "Making MARMADUKE was like revisiting my teenage years."

But George Lopez says his cinematic alter-ego doesn't think too much about teen social strata. "Carlos is a self-sufficient cat who really isn't into the whole high school scene. A big day for Carlos is hacking up a fur ball."

Although he has little interest in high school life at the dog park – obviously the last place he'd want to hang out – Carlos will do anything for Marmaduke, even help him make friends with the Pedigree pooch clique Marmaduke yearns to be a part of. The Pedigrees include Bosco (voiced by "24's" Kiefer Sutherland), the group's "alpha male" and reigning surf champion; Bosco's girlfriend, the elegant Collie Jezebel (voiced by Fergie of the Black Eyed Peas), who happens to be Phil's boss' dog, and whom Marmaduke is crushing on; and Bosco's shifty cohorts, the mini-Doberman Pinschers, Lightning and Thunder (voiced, respectively, by popular comic actors Marlon Wayans and Damon Wayans, Jr.).

To get in good with the Pedigrees, Marmaduke throws a wild party (Pedigrees only, thank you) at the Winslow's home; not so coincidentally, the "fam" is away for a few days, and only Carlos is left behind to witness the controlled chaos and carnage – as dogs flirt, stand on tabletops, shred pillows, pee on the couch, and groove to the window-shattering music.

Marmaduke's attempts to join the hard-to-crack Pedigree clique don't make the Mutts very happy, especially Mazie (voiced by "Zombieland's" Emma Stone), a tomboy Queensland Heller Mix, who sees more in Marmaduke than an oversized new kid in town. Mazie and the Mutts – who also include Raisin, a super-brain Dachshund mix (voiced by acclaimed comic actor Steve Coogan) and Giuseppe (voiced by "Kick-Ass'" Christopher Mintz-Plasse), a wired-too-tightly Chinese Crested mix – are the first to befriend Marmaduke upon his debut appearance at the dog park. Outside of any school/social clique – and feared by all – is a feral-looking mastiff named Chupadogra (voiced by "Up in the Air's" Sam Elliott). A figure of myth and legend, Chupadogra supposedly sleeps on a pile of bones, and is a hulking, shadowy presence whom no one dares cross. But then, even Chupadogra has never encountered anything like Marmaduke…

The film's human-canine interactions are just as compelling as the dog park dynamics. When Marmaduke isn't hangin' with his new friends and at home with step-bro' Carlos, he's both helping and testing the patience of his human "fam," the Winslows — patriarch Phil (Lee Pace), a Midwest dad with lofty ambitions, trying to make a better life for his family in The O.C; mom Debbie (Judy Greer), the glue that holds the family together; and kids Brian, Barbara and Sarah. Lee Pace, who starred in the cult television show "Pushing Daisies," enjoyed his character Phil's relationship with Marmaduke. "They have a special bond, despite the fact that they're constantly battling to see who's 'top dog,'" says Pace. "When the family moves to OrangeCounty, Phil gets a new beginning and so does Marmaduke. They both reinvent themselves."

Phil's reinvention is career-centric; having become the marketing chief for a California-based organic pet food company, Phil works for its eccentric owner Don Twombly, whose love for dogs drives him to insist on business meetings in the dog park. In addition, notes William H. Macy ("Wild Hogs," "Fargo") who portrays the canine-crazed corporate titan: "Don does most of these meetings without shoes because, he reasons, dogs don't wear shoes." For Phil, keeping up with his demanding boss is even more difficult, as he finds himself dodging the omnipresent land mines of field muffins left by the furry visitors.

Back at home, Phil's wife Debbie tries to keep a newly-relocated family and busy household from spinning out of control, including overworked hubby Phil, three young kids adjusting to their new environs – and, of course, Marmaduke. "When the Winslows adopted Marmaduke as a puppy, they didn't know what they were getting themselves into," says Greer, whose many credits include the comedy hit "27 Dresses." "When he grew up and became, well, Marmaduke, he became like a fourth child to the Winslows."

 
 

 

 

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