Jennifer Anniston and Luke Wilson play the married couple, who quickly jump from euphoria to chagrin at their new acquisition, and eventually, when the kids come and she’s tired all the time and can’t stand one more mess to clean up, they deal with the exasperation of owning this huge furry blob of tail-wagging, face-licking, jump-in-the-pool enthusiasm. But they stick together, and Marley truly becomes a part of the family, romping with the kids in the snow, waiting for their bus after school, staying in bed with them when they’re sick. By the time Marley is old and hobbling, we all love him. Anniston and Wilson play this one very straight, because it’s only tangentially about them. Everyone who has ever loved a dog will enjoy the life cycle, from rambunctious and incorrigible to beloved buddy.
“Bedtime Stories” is Adam Sandler playing the weird old uncle to his sister’s two kids. He’s still a handyman at the hotel his father used to own, and sold to a British investor, who’s been upgrading and expanding ever since, but our Mr. Everyman just gets weirder as he grows older. His sister asks him to keep her kids in the evenings while she’s on a business trip, and he tells them these elaborate, fanciful bedtime stories, which they learn to delight in, and even add to, but then the next day he’ll find their part of the story appears, somehow, in the course of his day. (It’s raining gumballs? An angry dwarf kicks him?) It’s all cute and fun, the good guys win, the bad guys lose, we get to use our imaginations, and there might even be a hint of romance. No academy awards for great performances, just lighthearted family fare for the holidays.
RONALD P. SALFEN is pastor of Grace Church, Greenville, Texas.