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A Dog’s Purpose: Review & Response

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A Dog’s Purpose has had the misfortune of being pummeled with negative press before the film has even seen the light of day, be it by reviewers or audiences. As a known crazy dog lady you can see my take on the controversy underneath my review of the film.

Bruce Cameron’s best seller has been on my “To Read” list for quite some time, and I was glad to hear it would become adapted to film. Like the many classic animal tales that precede it, A Dog’s Purpose serves its purpose; to remind us to value our pets and what they selflessly provide to us. Lasse Hallström serves as director to this heartwarming film, that I do believe will make an impact on those that view it. I can attest to that, as my dogs have now received way too much attention from me since I’ve come home from the movie.

We follow a dog through its multiple reincarnations, all voiced by Josh Gad, and focus most on its time as a red retriever, Bailey. Bailey meets Ethan as a young boy, and of course becomes an integral part of his family and life. Bailey eventually leaves that life, and the dog’s other lifetimes offer insight into the lives led by many dogs. He becomes a K9 for Chicago PD, a college student’s only and best friend, and lastly an unkempt and disregarded outdoor dog named Buddy.

These lives serve to show all of the different types of joy, help, companionship, and love a dog can provide, the hardships and heartaches they face, and the voids they call fill in each of our lives. This is what makes the movie so special, and why it should still be seen by animal lovers. I do believe at the core of the film, at the moment an adaptation was decided, this was a movie to showcase man’s best friend. I choose to believe it was made by a cast and crew that appreciate and love dogs, and hope that future productions learn to be appreciative of and kinder to their animal actors. Overall, the movie is quite what you’d expect from the trailer.

This corgi isn't as cute as @HemiTheCorgi
One of Bailey’s re-incarnations.

As someone who has rescued, fostered, and owned over a dozen dogs, I can say that my first reaction to the leaked footage was one of extreme discomfort and sadness. I could tell by the dog’s body language that it was very uncomfortable, and since I am the owner of one of the most cowardly dogs, and I definitely empathized with Hercules, the dog seen in the footage, and felt what most people outraged by the video have felt. Countless views of the footage, Reddit arguments, and op-ed’s later, I can say that I do not feel as terrible as I did at first. What I’ve taken into consideration are the sources of the leaked footage and their intentions, my own interactions with scared dogs, the total amount of time of the incident, and the behavior of the trainers and the outcry from the filmmakers themselves.

I firmly do not believe that the intentions of TMZ and the source of the leak were to ensure the welfare of animals since they held on to the video for over a year. Be skeptical of this and of the purposeful editing of the two scenes. There are, however, instances in the video I deemed over the line. I did not agree that the dog needed to dangle over the edge, where he was only being held by his collar which posed a choking hazard, but luckily that was over quickly. I am actually most disturbed by the laughter and remarks made by whomever’s voice we hear during the first scene. I still believe the incident should have been avoided all together, maybe replaced Hercules with a more eager dog, who according to producer Gavin Polone was more enthusiastic at a different spot. I hope they release the counter footage to quell some of the outrage and reassure the concerned. I also understand the pressures faced by anyone working on a movie set; it is drilled into you that time is money and under those circumstances the trainer may have made the mistake of forcing the dog more than he would normally.

The studio, cast, and creators have acted quickly to ensure that this one indiscretion does not speak for the entirety of the shoot. The representative from the American Humane Association responsible for the welfare of the animals has been reprimanded and an investigation has been launched. While the trainer in the first scene clearly led the dog into a situation out of its comfort zone, I found relief in the second scene where everyone reacted with urgency and obvious concern. I believe TMZ exploited the editing and intended to produce the most shock value. They are thirsty for views, and that is their only goal.

PETA is playing a huge role in publicizing the boycott, and while there are many ideologies that organization and I share, there are some very important ones that we do not. Therefore, I hesitate to jump on a bandwagon engineered by them. I urge anyone passionate about this video to consider what other ways they can ensure their daily lives help other animals. Use this momentum to help animals suffering much more than this on a daily basis.

Cobra and Shredder, Roxy’s dogs approve this review.

 

As a dog owner, you find yourself in circumstances where you must coax your pet. If anyone released footage of me attempting to cut my cattle dog’s nails they would think he was being tortured (and no I’ve never hit a vein). Granted, the filmmakers could have reset earlier or had another dog brought to not put the dog through that much distress. I believe there are many positives that will come out of this situation. It can lead to better treatment of animals on future sets, clearer roles for AHA representatives, and encourage animal advocates take up additional causes.. Ultimately, it’s to each his own if you decide to see the film, but if you do I believe you will enjoy its message and animals will reap the benefits.

A Dog’s Purpose (2017)
Director:  Lasse Hallstrom
Studio:  Universal
Genre:  Adventure, Comedy, Drama
MPAA:  PG
Release Date:  January 27th, 2017
Author:  Roxy De La Rosa
Roxy de la Rosa Roxy and her dogs are San Diego natives all hailing from Baja. She is a graduate of SDSU with a bachelor's degree in Television, Film, and New Media Production. Roxy is a huge comedy film and sitcom fan who hopes to become a TV writer, but for now she spends her time "researching" Netflix when she should be writing.

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