On Jan. 27, “A Dog’s Purpose” was released in theaters worldwide: a film that follows the life of a boy and his dog. This movie largely pulls on the heart-strings of animal lovers and captures the relationship between humans and their pets. The plot follows one dog, Bailey, as he is reincarnated through several lives and attempts to find his purpose in the human’s lives that he touches.
The months leading up to the release of “A Dog’s Purpose” were filled with controversy after a video showing from onset of the film was leaked. According to TMZ and Snopes, the video showed a terrified German Shepherd being forced into a pool of rapids. This sparked outrage with the public, many people vowing to boycott the movie and advocate for the safety of animals on set, eventually leading to the cancellation of the premiere in L.A. Eventually the director spoke out against this video, explaining the measures put into place to ensure the safety of the german shepherd and the credentials of the trainers on set. This calmed some, but not everyone. After a third-party investigation of the video, it was deemed fake, cut together to spark outrage and harp on people’s emotions.
Viewers argue whether “A Dog’s Purpose” took the hit or not; after two weeks in theaters it has brought in 44 million dollars worldwide, coming in on par with similar movies released in the recent years, like “Marley and Me.”
Despite all the controversy surrounding the film, it came out as a light hearted piece with both heart wrenching and heart-warming moments. The good scenes can be found in the relationship between Bailey and his young child owner, Ethan, who the audience follows into young adulthood at the same time that they follow Bailey through his many lives. Everyone can relate to loving their dogs with all of their hearts, and dream about them returning in a later life.
Issues in this film can be found in the pacing and the way the emotional content was handled. In the beginning, the audience spends a lot of time with Bailey and Ethan. The audience follows Ethan as he grows from a young boy to a college aged young adult, and the audience follows Bailey as he watches Ethan grow up. About halfway through the movie, Bailey passes away, and is reincarnated with a new owner and a new life. The audience then finds themselves watching Bailey go through several lives, and have lots of doggy deaths in about one-third of the movie.
“A Dog’s Purpose” seems to be a lighthearted movie, but it squeezes all of these deaths into one part of the movie and eventually leaves the viewer feeling rather sad. This handling of emotional content is a little harsh. Inherently this movie deals with the death of the dog, but its poor handling of pacing ended up with poor handling of the emotional content.
The last of the movie follows Bailey in what is presumed to be his last life, as he tries to find his way back to Ethan, now in his late 50’s. Of course, now a different breed and a different dog, Ethan doesn’t recognize him. But when Bailey performs an old trick from his first life, Ethan suddenly realizes that this is his childhood dog, which was a rather cheesy move, but worked for the tone of the movie.
“A Dog’s Purpose” portrayed how a dog touched the lives of many other characters throughout the movie. Each character Bailey comes into contact with has some void of loneliness that that he fills, which was relatable for a slightly older audience and a cute movie for kids to enjoy.
Getting past the pacing issues and the issues from the leaked video might take some work from the audience. “A Dog’s Purpose” isn’t the best movie out there, and could have been better with some more film-savvy hands on board. However, for a relatable movie about a boy and his dog, it fills its purpose.