The A Dog’s Purpose reviews are in, and the critical roundup is not kind. It may be due to the controversy surrounding a video released prior to the film.
In the video, a German Shepherd was being forced into turbulent water against its will, sparking accusations of animal cruelty. These days, actors aren’t even allowed to swat at a fly landing directly on their nose while on the set for this reason. Animal activists like PETA believe that any living creature with a face deserves the same rights as any other.
After seeing the video, social media exploded, and activists launched a campaign calling for a boycott of the film. Activists have also been known to influence Hollywood, causing remakes with all female leads, a general awareness of a gender wage gap, and a recent video with a collection of celebrities attempting to convince the Electoral College that Donald Trump shouldn’t be President of the United States.
It’s unknown if this influence led to the critical derailment of A Dog’s Purpose in reviews. Entertainment Weekly noticed the parallel in their review.
The story of this film touches on the classic Old Yeller scenario as a dog inspires his many owners to laugh and love, and he even gets reincarnated in his quest to find the meaning of life. Based on the bestselling novel by W. Bruce Cameron, A Dog’s Purpose feels a bit like your average Hallmark film.
According to Indie Wire, the film begins with narration by Josh Gad as the dog, asking deep philosophical questions. The one which Jude Dry claims sums up the movie is, “Is there a point to any of this?” He says that the film makes no sense as a children’s movie in which multiple dogs suffer and die. Director Lasse Hallström hails from such critically acclaimed films as What’s Eating Gilbert Grape, Chocolat, and My Life as a Dog, but even great directors can occasionally make a big mistake.
Just ask J.J. Abrams, whose career as a director fell disastrously hard after Star Trek Into Darkness, Star Wars: The Force Awakens, and Avengers: Age of Ultron. He was the same man who directed the TV series Firefly, and even though those films weren’t terrible, the fan backlash was not kind.
Roger Ebert’s Movie Nation also slammed the film for putting such horrific ideas into a movie marketed toward children. They state that we don’t need a movie based on a novel to tell us what a dog’s purpose is. Dogs are loyal pets who love us unconditionally, even when we get angry and do things which PETA doesn’t approve of. The movie does quite a few of these things as Josh Gad makes observations from each dog’s perspective.
One cited example is from a scene later in the movie, where Luke Kirby plays a drunk and abusive owner. You hear Gad claim, “Dad always talked too loud when he smelled that way.” These scenes could probably give children nightmares if they weren’t basically set up like home videos with a professional touch.
It’s almost like watching a collection of cute puppy videos with tragic endings.
The St. Louis Post-Dispatch has a much more positive view of the film, claiming that A Dog’s Purpose narrates everyday life realistically through the eyes of a dog, even occasionally going “full Deadpool” and mentioning random itches. They say the film is a wistful and thoughtful one showing us how a dog thinks and feels about us as owners. His many lives vary from a playful puppy to a K-9 police dog, all with realistic and often tragic stories.
If you’re looking for a movie with a heart about animals, critics generally suggest seeing The Secret Life of Pets instead.
[Featured Image by Universal Pictures]