A Dog’s Purpose’ formulates heartfelt film for animal lovers

By Ivan Mateo

Controversial backlash has engulfed the release of “A Dog’s Purpose” because of a behind-the-scenes video released prior to the release date.

The video, which has gone viral on TMZ and other websites, depicts a trainer placing a reluctant German shepherd’s paws into rushing water in one scene, presumably for the dog to get acquainted to the cold, moving water, in order for the dog to perform a stunt. Then, the video quickly shifts to another scene with the same dog completely submerged underwater.

PETA spoke out and called for bans of the film’s release. As a dog lover, this kind of treatment to animals should not happen, but the video appears edited by TMZ.

As expected, the director, author and actors have spoken out against the released footage calling for an investigation and stating the footage was from two separate days of filming.

They said the dogs, including Hercules, the German shepherd, were treated with the utmost care and that no animal abuse was witnessed on set, but the mistake is still inexcusable for a film trying to showcase a human’s love and connection with his dog.

“A Dog’s Purpose” is based on the 2010 novel of the same title written by W. Bruce Cameron. The film opens and follows the spirit of a dog, whose inner voice is provided by Josh Gad as he inquisitively searches for the answer to the question: what exactly is a dog’s purpose?

The main narrative thread beginning at the onset of the film follows a young boy, Ethan (Bryce Gheisar), and his mother, Elizabeth Montgomery (Juliet Rylance), who happen upon a puppy suffering from extreme heat inside of a truck. The mother and son rescue the puppy and name him Bailey.

Ethan and Bailey grow up as time passes with memories of fetch, sit and being best friends. Now-teenage Ethan (K.J. Apa) goes through high school playing football and meeting a girl, Hannah (Britt Robertson), with the help of Bailey. Time continues to pass and Bailey passes on due to old age.

Then the story branches off into other stories where Bailey enters the life of other dogs by being reborn and meeting different protagonist owners.

In one story, the dog becomes the K-9 unit for a police officer named Carlos (John Ortiz) and gets involved with lots of action. Another storyline sees the dog being owned by college student, Maya (Kirby Howell-Baptiste).

Certain narratives and characters showed themselves as far more interesting than their counterparts. Some of the scenes and motivations involving certain characters were just plain mind-boggling or ridiculous.

The film did a good enough job of showcasing the variety of dogs and dog owners there are in the world. This is the film’s way of trying to relate to the many dog owners out there.

With films focusing on dogs and the people they share their lives with, there is almost this checklist kind of feeling to how the film was written and directed. Cute Corgi: check. Powerful German shepherd: check. College student: check.

The attempt to appeal to as many audience members as possible is understandable, but the almost formulaic nature was a bit off-putting.

Besides one storyline, each narrative of the film was disconnected from the others, leaving a bit to be desired as far as cohesiveness.

Gad does a solid job with voicing the numerous curiosities inside a dog’s mind and providing the clever names of certain items (he calls a hot dog a “meat log” and a school bus a “yellow box on wheels”), while also providing enough comedic timing to break down the more dramatic moments in the film.

Rounding out the rest of the cast are Dennis Quaid, Peggy Lipton and Pooch Hall.

Spoiler: Dogs do die in various ways during the film. This is the plot device employed to push the narrative forward. Seeing dogs perish and the way they go is heartbreaking. Pathos plays an integral role in this film’s goals because the film wants the audience to feel emotional.

Throughout the film, I half expected Sarah McLachlan to start chiming in with her usual narration for the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals while the musical lyrics of “In the Arms of an Angel” melodiously played in the background.

So, what is a dog’s purpose exactly? For dogs, the answer remains simple: they are here for fun without a care in the world. Feed them meat logs and they will be happy for the rest of their lives. (Please don’t feed them just meat logs.) Nothing makes dogs happier than seeing their owners happy.

The answer for humans varies from person to person. Dogs act as companions, best friends, secret keepers, guardians and more. Dogs and pets are everything to people, and they ask for nothing in return.

In the end, “A Dog’s Purpose” pulls at the heartstrings of animal lovers, especially dog owners, but does feel a bit overdone for maximum effect. “A Dog’s Purpose” is a cute film with adorable dogs aplenty and a variety of storylines, some weaker than others.

“A Dog’s Purpose” is rated PG for thematic elements and some peril.

“A Dog’s Purpose” is playing in theaters now.

Courtesy of Universal Pictures

‘A Dog’s Purpose’ movie poster

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