Cigarette Burns: Owen Wilson: some rules…

Imagine my horror (go on, do it) when I discovered that Owen Wilson was to provide the voice for talking dog Marmaduke in the new live action/CGI film of the same name, directed by Shanghai Noon (2000) director Tom Dey. I haven’t seen, nor will I ever see Marmaduke (2010), so my opinions are based solely on two things; blind prejudice and a sense of disbelief at the trajectory of Owen Wilson’s career.

The Royal Tenenbaum’s (2001) director Wes Anderson managed to tease a number of wonderful performances out of Wilson. In fact, if Owen’s still hanging out with Ben Stiller, the chances are that he’ll also be marginally less hateful. It’s as if the flagging star is nothing without a Stiller by his side, and this is immensely frustrating.

Since 2004, Owen Wilson has starred in films including The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou (2004)Starsky & Hutch (2004), Wedding Crashers (2005), Night at the Museum (2006), You, Me and Dupree (2006), Cars (2006), The Darjeeling Limited (2007), Drillbit Taylor (2008), Marley & Me (2008), Night at the Museum 2 (2009), Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009) and now Marmaduke. Not by any stretch of the imagination an appalling sequence of projects, but through this we can extrapolate a few rules which I will gladly print off and hand to Mr. Wilson when I next see him…

1) Continue doing comedies with Wes Anderson.

Pretty self-explanatory really. Owen has peppered his career with Wes Anderson movies at fairly regular intervals, and in each movie he turns in the same sort of familiar, yet beautifully crafted ‘man-child’ performance. Wilson delivers great lines very well and, importantly, you feel some emotional connection to the character he portrays – something which certainly doesn’t happen in You, Me and Dupree, which leads me onto my next rule….

2) Don’t do comedies without Wes Anderson.

There is two caveats to this rule which will be addressed in rules 3 & 4. Mr. Wilson, that stoner-styled man-child character you’d perfected in countless Wes Anderson movies does not translate to other directors. They just haven’t got what it takes to make you appear lovable, so you end up seeming like you’ve sustained a head injury. You, Me and Dupree is poop. Drillbit Taylor is poop. I’d say that The Wendell Baker Story (2005) is also poop, but it appears that no one has seen it. Which by proxy indicates that it’s poop.

3) If you must do a comedy without Wes Anderson, please make sure the film includes Ben Stiller.

Now, Ben Stiller isn’t guaranteed film gold. He’s equally turned in his own fair share of guff, which seems to escape most people’s guff sensors by simple virtue that it’s Ben Stiller. I don’t know how he gets away with it, but he does, and yet, when you add in Owen Wilson, the magic starts to happen. Zoolander (2001) wouldn’t be the same film without Owen Wilson’s vein, idiotic male model. Meet the Parents (2000) arguably wouldn’t be the same film without Owen Wilson’s vein, idiotic golden boy ex-boyfriend. Simply, Stiller + Wilson = comic brilliance. And yet, the ratio of Stiller to Wilson can vary. There doesn’t necessarily need to be a Stiller lead with a Wilson cameo. Thus, I’d like to test out this theory and have them both appear in a terrible movie, at the same part, for barely a minute. I bet the film turns out great. Starsky and Hutch pushes this rule to absolute breaking point. Maybe having a joint lead between them is too much for the equation?

The exception to a Stiller is a Ferrell. You can replace a Stiller with a Ferrell and turn movie lead into gold. You can almost create a similar effect with a Vaughn, but not often. Wedding Crashers required both Vaughn and Ferrell so it’s a tough one. Choose wisely.

4) Avoid agreeing to co-star with moping, brown-eyed animals.

But let’s not be mean to Jennifer Aniston…I jest, I am of cause talking about the canine-orientated train wreck that was Marley and Me. Marmaduke is going to really make or break this rule. I’d have renamed this rule “Don’t voice cartoon characters” were it not for both Cars and Fantastic Mr. Fox. Maybe he should just stay away from romantic comedies? I don’t know. He should know.

Owen Wilson makes me feel like a disappointed school teacher, harking back to what could have been every time I walk into McDonald’s and sees that bright-eyed boy who showed so much promise, flipping burgers. Mr. Wilson, please, you’re better than this. 

Alex Riding