Movie Review – A Dog’s Purpose (2017)

Canine reincarnation.  Animal acting controversy.  Pooch Hall in a 1980s Jerry curl.

BQB here with a review of the sappy schmaltz fest that is, A Dog’s Life.

Before I venture into this review, I suppose I should discuss the elephant in the room.  This film was expected to get more play as an ode to man’s best friend, but all that was cast aside when video surfaced of a trainer struggling to get a German Shepherd to enter a turbulent pool of water, followed by the dog later ending up submerged a little longer than anyone would like to see.

More on that from the LA Times.

Honestly, I don’t know.  I watched the video.  The dog isn’t beaten or anything, though that shouldn’t necessarily be the low bar that is set for dog treatment.  The dog is scared.  The trainer tries to get him to go into the pool anyway.  Eventually the dog is in the pool and he goes underwater for a bit.  At the end of the day, he’s safe.

Animal activists are all over the movie like stink on a monkey, raising the question of whether or not animals should be made to appear/perform in movies at all.

On the other hand, W. Bruce Cameron, author of the book the film is based on, released this letter to USA Today, which, if you read it, seems reasonable.

I don’t want to put words into the man’s mouth but my takeaway was, “We goofed.  We’re sorry.  I love dogs.  The movie is meant as a love song to the relationship between man and dog.”

I’ll let you decide.  Personally, I think it might be one of those lessons where everything worked out, the dog’s fine and there was a lesson learned.  Movie dog trainers are now on notice to not force dogs to do things they aren’t cool with.  Yes, it’s a teachable moment for the PETA crowd to express their views, but then again, in today’s knee jerk to become outraged within 30 seconds Internet/social media culture, the folks behind the movie are being treated as if they are collectively Satan…and I don’t sense a vibe that they are Satan.

Moving on to the film itself, Bailey, voiced by Josh Gad, begins his journey as a golden retriever owned by young Ethan.  Time moves on.  As in any life, there are happy times and sad times, proud times and profoundly disappointing times.

Long story short, the pooch buys the farm and is reincarnated as a different dog over and over again, each time to a different owner in a different time period.

Each owner has his/her backstory and it’s up to Bailey to help each human with their personal problems as best he can.  Some owners are kind.  Some owners are douches.

Morals laid down by the tale:

  • Your dog’s life is in your hands and ultimately, he/she ends up being as happy as you are.  If you’re a douche and you treat your dog in a douche-like manner, your dog will be unhappy.  If you rise above whatever it is that is dragging you down, you’ll find happiness if you remember to treat your dog right.
  • Your dog has thoughts.  No, a dog’s inner voice probably doesn’t sound like Josh Gad, but dogs get the gist.  They know if you are mad at them or happy with them.  They know what it is like to be treated well and they know what it is like to be treated like crap.
  • Give your dog a break.  Sure, they occasionally poop on your rug, but if you wouldn’t cast out a family member for making a mistake then give your dog the same courtesy.
  • Dogs are a lot of work.  Being a dog owner is a big commitment.  Think about whether or not you are up for it.  Being chained up in the back yard with occasional feedings and waterings whenever you feel like it is no life for a dog.
  • Ultimately, your dog is a source of unconditional love.  Your dog won’t leave you a Dear John letter or tell you to get lost.  Though you’ll often go to work, go out into the world and leave your dog alone, he/she is like a friend that’s always there waiting for you when you get home.

I hate to admit it, but the film was a real tearjerker.  I mean, not to spoil it, but as a viewer, you’re forced to witness a dog die over and over and over again and that’s before you even scrape the surface of the emotional pain his various owners are in.  Oh and time flashes by at a lightning pace and entire decades have come and gone before you realize it, so try to make the most of it before it is too late.

It sucks that the controversy derailed this film.  I sympathize with the people that are mad.  I sympathize with the people behind this film.

All and all, I’d say give the movie a chance.  There’s a definite love of all things furry behind it.

STATUS: Shelf worthy.  Woof.

 

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2 thoughts on “Movie Review – A Dog’s Purpose (2017)

  1. sigh. my son is seeing this at a birthday party this afternoon. I expect tears. Thanks for the warning.

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