Too bad "Marmaduke" wasn't released a few years ago, when forced viewings of it might have been offered as a suitable punishment for Michael Vick.

Even ardent animal-rights activists would concede that watching this mind-numbing bore is equivalent to, or actually worse than, several years in a federal penitentiary.

"Marmaduke" is an awful new low for talking, dancing animal movies. It makes "Beverly Hills Chihuahua" look like "Citizen Canine," while stealing its premise.

Hulking Marmaduke is an allegedly lovable Great Dane living happily in Kansas when his owner (Lee Pace) takes a job in Los Angeles, dragging along his Midwestern family (including poor, underemployed Judy Greer, whose job is to wrinkle her nose at the dog's farts and say "Marmaduke!").

The humans try to fit in, and Marmaduke (voice of a tranquilized Owen Wilson) does the same at a local dog park, where we find a gaggle of dogs that conform to various human stereotypes (dumb blonde, bully, tomboy).

The most egregious of these stereotypes is the Latino sidekick, supplied by George Lopez as the family cat, who says things like "Not to rub margarita salt in the wound, but  . . ."

The more of these movies they make, the worse they get. The other night, on cable, I caught snippets of "Babe" and its superb sequel, "A Pig in the City," a vaguely similar movie that serves to show, by comparison, just how bankrupt "Marmaduke" is in terms of style, content, imagination and execution.

Do your kids and yourself a favor, and rent those "Babe" films instead of taking them to this lazy, witless pile of droppings.