Most people, myself included, think that if you were to ask a dog what it’s purpose is in life, every canine would respond with the following, “Lick myself, eat, drink, sleep, lick myself, pee on fire hydrants, poop on the lawn, lick myself, then proceed to immediately lick my owner’s face.” It only takes a few minutes of non-scientific observation to notice this is pretty standard behavior across most breeds. To be fair, do you blame them? I do the same thing… err, I mean I’d do the same thing if given the ability and opportunity.
Thus my excitement to see the recent release of a dog-filled film aptly titled, A Dog’s Purpose. Based on a novel of the same name by W. Bruce Cameron, the trailer promises to take the viewer inside the mind of a dog, and inevitably shows us what role they play on the planet, per their own perspective. Did the film achieve its goal? You’ll have to read the rest of this review for more. (Warning, there are some spoilers and I do take a few breaks to lick myself.)
Speaking of licking myself, I’ll start with some of the negative areas I felt A Dog’s Purpose could have used some behavioral training.
(NOTE: I’m well aware of the video controversy surrounding how one of the dogs was treated in a scene during the filming of this movie. While I don’t condone any type of animal cruelty, thankfully the matter has been investigated by the American Humane Association. Their findings revealed the footage was deliberately edited to mislead the public and no animals were harmed.)
Oh God it’s Gad –
I may be in the minority on this one, but what else is new. Talent aside, I find Josh Gad’s voice very abrasive. I can’t quite put my finger on why, but if I had the choice to either listen to him talk or hear nails on a chalk board for two hours, let’s just say I’d leave my fate up to a coin toss. If you find his tones charming, than by all means this qualm of mine won’t be an issue. The good news is, in this one particular movie, his voice wasn’t overbearing and even grew on me by the film’s final scenes.
Human Acting Is For The Dogs –
Let’s be clear, I wasn’t going into a film shot from a dog’s point of view expecting Oscar worthy human performances. That said, I was hoping for something slightly less cringe worthy… at least to start. To be fair, the roughest scenes occurred during the younger years of Ethan (the main human character) and his parents. There was nothing overtly eye-rolling about them, but saying the acting was average would probably be giving more credit than is deserved. This aspect of the movie did improve around the film’s midpoint however. During the flick’s final 20 minutes or so, veterans Dennis Quaid and Peggy Lipton definitely balanced out the bumpy beginning, but it almost felt too little too late.
Dog Lover for Life… and the Next Life, and the Next Life, and the Next Life… –
If you are a Dog person like the Outlaw, then you will love the overarching concept behind A Dog’s Purpose. I’m fairly certain it’s not a spoiler since it’s revealed in the trailers, so I feel no anguish sharing one of main plot points of the film. The story revolves around Bailey – as we seem him in his first life – who is constantly being reincarnated as a different pup at the end of each of his physical lives. Even having the faintest bit of hope your beloved dog’s soul and personality will come back to make others (possibly yourself included) happy in another pup’s body is as feel-good as it gets. However, in taking on this philosophy of multiple lives on film, it also means…
Bring on the Waterworks –
By definition, reincarnation of a soul into a new body can only take place when the prior body ceases to live. (Like how I avoided the word “dies”?) Well, in order to follow Bailey’s multiple journeys on earth, the audience must unfortunately see him perish on several occasions. Even though the audience eventually realizes Bailey is going to come back after each passing, it’s the human owners’ reaction to the loss that makes the above-mentioned scenes so heartbreaking. The Outlaw’s eyes were swimming during several scenes, most invoking flashbacks of canine pals I’ve lost over my lifetime.
A Dog’s Purpose – (WARNING: Major Spoilers Below!)
By the end credits, A Dog’s Purpose presents the viewer with two different purposes; one of which is revealed by Bailey from the perspective of a dog (but still applicable to humans). The other is slightly more subtle, but remains an underlying theme which sits right under the audience and Bailey’s collective noses throughout the entire run-time.
In the final scene, Bailey, in his own words, describes his purpose as being around to help people remember to live in the moment. During the course of the film, the dog owners are at their happiest when they are just living for the now and not focusing on negative aspects of their life, some of which are out of their control.
The other big purpose I walked away with is a dogs role in bringing humans together. In almost all of his lives, Bailey helps to bring people together in a way only a canine can. Ultimately, he doesn’t do this because he thinks it’s his purpose, but he selflessly does it because he wants to make all of his owners happy. There has been countless research done that proves dogs not only improve our health and state of happiness, but can read off of our emotions as well. From personal experience, I’ve been witness to the power of a dogs love and how they can unite the most unlikely of bed fellows. Three months ago, Pedigree released a lengthy commercial during the peak of the most heated election in history, showing how a lost dog could go a long way in melting animosity between those with sparring political beliefs.
In a perfect world, our votes would go to the dogs.
Like dogs, human beings live for companionship. It’s in our nature and theirs. Whatever their purpose truly is, it’s not far-fetched (see what I did there) to think our four-legged babies care more about our happiness, than their own.
In a world that is becoming more divisive and divided on a daily basis, it sure seems like we could use a few more dogs to help bring us all closer together. A Dog’s Purpose won’t do it alone, but it’s a paw in the right direction.