While I did want to see A Dog’s Purpose as an escape from today’s tumultuous political landscape of eroding Indigenous, women’s and environmental rights, I found that a dog’s purpose was to make you cry, several times over and over.
The premise follows the “soul life” of a dog who begins as Bailey (Josh Gad), a golden retriever to his young human counterpart Ethan (Bryce Gheisar). They both grow up together, through somewhat generic all-American teenage movie stuff- become sixteen, get a girlfriend, deal with family problems, get a football scholarship, then get an injury that changes your life outcome leaving you on the farm/small town, breaks up with girlfriend, moves on. It’s sad when that life is over for the pup, but then Bailey gets reincarnated several times over and dies several times over. I don’t know about you, but I can definitely cry whenever a dog dies. Like. Every. Single. Time. This movie has tested me. Mostly because it invoked those memories of when I had a mutt named Dudley who I trained, slept with, became besties with until he had to be put down for reasons out of my 13 year old life’s control. The story becomes somewhat circular as Bailey (reincarnated) ends up back into the hands of Ethan as another dog named Buddy. I wish I had that luck, but now I live in a Toronto downtown apartment with a roommate and a black cat who likes to sleep on all my things uninvited. It just shows up.
Now about the controversy. At first I felt iffy about watching a movie that was reported to not treat animals well on set. It’s 2017. Animals should be treated well, especially on a movie set in a movie about animals. People are more crazy about animal rights now-a-days than some human rights now-a-days. But then I saw that it was PETA heading this controversy. While I’m sure PETA does mean well, they are also notorious for spreading and sensationalizing a lot of misinformation regarding animal issues. Take a look at the sealskin fur trade. They were nearly successful in destroying a trade that many Inuit people heavily rely on for income through one of their **misinformation** campaigns with the help of “celebrities” such as Pamela Anderson. Watch the documentary “Angry Inuk”. It’s winning many awards on the film festival circuit, while trying to undo PETA’s dirty work. So if I were you, I would take what anything PETA says with a grain of salt. They also released the “controversial video” to TMZ…so take that with more grains of salt. Take all those rumours with all the grains of salt you have.
The movie explores many heartwarming doggy-human relationships, much like advertised in it’s marketing campaign. At times it can be uplifting, but at other times reveals how shitty humans can be either towards each other and/or other animals. Bailey is originally locked in a car in the sweltering heat, Ethan’s father is an alcoholic who doesn’t treat his family well, Ethan’s friend is jealous and burns his house down. While humans can be self serving at times, it’s the dog’s utterly selfless devotion and love that saves the day and the movie.
Universal Pictures Canada releases A Dog’s Purpose on Friday, January 27, 2016