Arts & Entertainment Film Review

Movie Tribute to Man’s Best Friend Overshadowed by Controversy

Written by Jack Lyons '17

Photo via New York Times

A Dog’s Purpose is a heartwarming film based on the book A Dog’s Purpose, The Novel for Humans, published in 2010 by W. Bruce Cameron, who has also written a number of other novels about man’s best friend. This particular novel, now movie, tells the story of a dog’s journey through the course of different lifetimes.  The dog comes back to life as different breeds of dogs belonging to an array of owners in order to find his true purpose of life, just as the title implies. The movie adds comedic relief throughout the work, such as when the dog, once a boy, wakes up in a new life as a girl. To make the story even more interesting, the dog is the one narrating his own life. Who would not want to watch a movie about a dog that tugs on one’s heartstrings while simultaneously providing endless laughter? The answer is just about no one because almost everyone loves dogs or at least has a soft spot in their heart for animals. However, that proved to be a problem when an alleged animal cruelty controversy broke out surrounding the movie.

On January 18, TMZ released a video to the public showing a German shepherd being “forced” into rapid running water for a scene on-set. In the video, the German shepherd, being held by a trainer, is then reluctantly released into the rapid, running water in the pool on-set. The video ends with an in-water crewmember rescuing the dog out of the water. The dog appears anxious and nervous at the beginning of the video, suggesting that the dog does not want to get into the rushing water. At the end of the video when rescuers in the water swim over to the end of the pool, the dog is not even visible. The video is clearly two-clips edited together; one from when the dog first goes in the water and one when the dog leaves the water. The video does not show if the dog finally calmed down and got back into the water willingly for other scenes to be filmed or not. Since the video cuts off at the end, it also is unclear as to whether the dog needed to be rescued or if it was standard for the crew to grab the dog at the end to stop the water from continuously pushing him into the wall. The video was not clear enough to reach a full conclusion about what was happening on set, but what could be seen was enough for some people.

After the video was released, many animal activists took charge and started boycotting the movie and speaking out about animal cruelty. PETA called for a boycott of the film as well. Since this was such a big issue, the movie decided it would be best to cancel the premiere. However, that did not stop them from releasing the movie to over 3,000 locations for it to be viewed, enjoyed, and possibly critiqued by those opposed across the United States and several other countries. Despite the controversy surrounding the movie, it still made out pretty well at the box office, earning close to $20 million. The producers of the movie are still not sure what kind of impact the controversy had on the showing or will have in the future.

How do Saints feel about this controversy? Audrey Law ’19 shared, “I think it is unacceptable to treat animals in the way that they did, no matter the purpose behind the action.” Others still saw the movie despite the controversy raved about it on online postings. However, Law is one of many people that will not be in attendance because the movie that “seemed like a nice feel good movie” could possibly not be all that it claims to be in rightfully protecting the welfare of animals. Regardless of whether or not the video was pieced together to show a side that is not there or the allegations are accurate, the video has now been out for the world to see. Whether or not you choose to see the film is up to you, but be sure to bring some Kleenexes if you do.

About the author

Jack Lyons '17