Australian Council on Children and the Media

Marmaduke

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This topic contains:

  • overall comments and recommendations
  • details of classification and consumer advice lines for Marmaduke
  • a review of Marmaduke completed by the Australian Council on Children and the Media (ACCM) on 1 July 2010.

Overall comments and recommendations

Children under 8 Not recommended due to violence and scary scenes
Children aged 8-10 Parental guidance recommended due to violence and scary scenes
Children over the age of 10 OK for this age group

About the movie

This section contains details about the movie, including its classification by the Australian Government Classification Board and the associated consumer advice lines.

Name of movie: Marmaduke
Consumer advice lines: Infrequent coarse language
Length 88 minutes

ACCM review

This review of the movie contains the following information:

A synopsis of the story

Marmaduke is based on the comic strip created by Brad Anderson, which featured in Australian newspapers and magazines in the 1970s – 1980s.  This partially animated comedy, directed by Tom Dey, revolves around the adventures of Marmaduke, the talking Great Dane (voiced by Owen Wilson).

The story opens with Marmaduke’s owner, Phil Winslow (Lee Pace) feeling dissatisfied with an apparently dead-end life in Kansas.  When an attractive job opportunity arises, he and his wife Debbie (Judy Greer) decide to pack up the family and move to California.  Once settled there, Marmaduke soon meets a host of new canine friends, including Maisie (Emma Stone), Guiseppe (Christopher Mintz-Plasse) and Raisin (Steve Coogan), and some enemies, such as Bosco the “alpha-dog” (Kiefer Sutherland) who is constantly surrounded by a gang of canine henchmen. 

Meanwhile, Phil becomes so involved in achieving success in his new position with Bark Organics dog food company that he fails to realise how unhappy his children are becoming.  After a series of disastrous events, Marmaduke eventually helps Phil to acknowledge that he has been neglecting his family.

Themesinfo

Children and adolescents may react adversely at different ages to themes of crime, suicide, drug and alcohol dependence, death, serious illness, family breakdown, death or separation from a parent, animal distress or cruelty to animals, children as victims, natural disasters and racism. Occasionally reviews may also signal themes that some parents may simply wish to know about.

Alienation, failure, bullying, and gang violence

Use of violenceinfo

Research shows that children are at risk of learning that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution when violence is glamourised, performed by an attractive hero, successful, has few real life consequences, is set in a comic context and / or is mostly perpetrated by male characters with female victims, or by one race against another.

Repeated exposure to violent content can reinforce the message that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution. Repeated exposure also increases the risks that children will become desensitised to the use of violence in real life or develop an exaggerated view about the prevalence and likelihood of violence in their own world.

There is some physical and verbal violence in this movie including:

  • Phil grabs Marmaduke’s tail and remains holding it while Marmaduke runs through the house
  • Marmaduke tips Carlos the cat off the couch and onto the floor
  • Marmaduke hits Carlos on the head repeatedly, then grabs Carlos’ tail in his mouth and spins the frightened cat in circles.  This leaves Carlos with little fur on his tail
  • Marmaduke knocks Phil off the bed and onto the floor
  • Phil is dragged across the ground behind Marmaduke, who is on a leash
  • Gang-leader dog Bosco and his gang snarl at, bark and threaten Marmaduke on several occasions
  • Carlos the cat is surrounded by threatening, barking dogs
  • Phil yells at, and runs after, Marmaduke.

Material that may scare or disturb children

Under fiveinfo

Children under five are most likely to be frightened by scary visual images, such as monsters, physical transformations.

In addition to the above-mentioned violent scenes, there are some scenes in this movie that could scare or disturb children under the age of five. While watching this film, the reviewer heard young children in the audience crying during some of the violent and frightening scenes.

Examples include:

  • A few scenes depict Chupadogra, a very large and ghost-like dog who emerges in an eerie haze, then snarls and barks ferociously at Marmaduke
  • Phil drags the reluctant and scared Marmaduke into the sea for a surf competition. Shortly after this, Marmaduke is caught off guard by a giant “rogue” wave.  As the water swirls around him, it appears as though he may drown
  • Marmaduke runs away from home and is caught in a wild thunder storm
  • Maisie the dog falls into a raging storm-water system after a burst water pipe caused a section of the street to collapse.  Marmaduke jumps in to save her, but almost drowns in the process.  Later, a rescue worker successfully carries Maisie to safety, but is unable to help Marmaduke, who is washed away into a large, cascading aquaduct.  Phil then dives into the aquaduct to save Marmaduke and they both appear in grave danger of drowning.

Aged five to eightinfo

Children aged five to eight will also be frightened by scary visual images and will also be disturbed by depictions of the death of a parent, a child abandoned or separated from parents, children or animals being hurt or threatened and / or natural disasters.

Younger children in this age group may also be disturbed by the violent and scary scenes described above.

Aged eight to thirteeninfo

Children aged eight to thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic threats and dangers, violence or threat of violence and / or stories in which children are hurt or threatened.

Younger children in this age group may also be disturbed by the violent and scary scenes described above.

Over thirteeninfo

Children over the age of thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic physical harm or threats, molestation or sexual assault and / or threats from aliens or the occult.

Children in this age group are unlikely to be disturbed by anything in this film.

Product placement

Some products were displayed or mentioned in this movie, including:

  • Wii gaming systems
  • Apple laptop
  • Youtube

Sexual references

There are some sexual references in this movie, including:

  • Debbie Winslow notes to Phil that, “in California, they cheat with superstars”
  • The dog gang leader’s girlfriend at the start of the film is named “Jezebel”, and the implicit message about her unfaithful activities is reinforced when she quickly dumps boyfriend Bosco for a relationship with Marmaduke
  • Bosco accuses Marmaduke of, “salivating on my girlfriend”.

Nudity and sexual activity

There are no explicit depictions of nudity or sexual activity in this movie but there are two very mild scenes where Phil and his wife Debbie share a brief kiss.

Use of substances

There is no direct substance use in this movie.  However, there are some implied references to substance use, including:

  • Carlos the cat begins hallucinating after being given a sleeping pill
  • A group of un-named dogs sit hallucinating or lying collapsed in the park, apparently stoned after intentionally ingesting mushrooms
  • Jezebel explains Bosco’s aggressive behaviour by saying, “he always gets this way after drinking too much drain water”.

Coarse language

There is some coarse language in this movie and frequent threatening language, “put-downs” and verbal discrimination of those who are different in this movie, including:

  •  “Who’s lickin’ butt now?”
  • “You don’t give a steaming pile about us”
  • “You suck”
  •  “Knucklehead”
  • “Weener-dog”
  • “Mutt”
  • “Donkey-boy”
  • “The big doofus”
  • “Loser”;
  • “The hickster giant”
  • “You coward”
  • “You poser”
  •  “I’d cream your furry little butt”
  • “Beat it”
  • “I’m gonna tear you apart”
  •  “I’m gonna kill you”

 In addition, there are several jokes about farts and animals urinating  For example, in one scene, as a practical joke, an unnamed dog sneaks up behind a man relaxing in the park and urinates in his plastic cup, which the man subsequently takes a drink from.

In a nutshell

Marmaduke is a family comedy that makes use of some specialised animation effects in order to enable the animals to talk to each other, dance and behave like humans.  While not exactly sophisticated humour, several scenes are really quite funny.  The simple story line involving animals is certainly pitched at the pre-teens but the realistic animated violence and danger may frighten young children. The film’s key message - that all animals are valuable and should not be discriminated against - may well be lost on children under ten.

Values in this movie that parents may wish to reinforce with their children include:

  • contentment
  • acceptance of difference
  • self-acceptance
  • courage

This movie could also give parents the opportunity to discuss with their children attitudes and behaviours, and their real-life consequences, such as

  • the outcomes of bullying, for both the victims and the perpetrators.  In this movie, characters were bullied on the basis of size, status and gender
  • the results of discrimination.  Marmaduke was discriminated against because of his size and also because he was not a pure breed. 

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