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Movie Review

A Dog’s Purpose also known as “Mes vies de chien,” “Bailey - Ein Freund fürs Leben,” “Był sobie pies,” “Egy kutya négy élete,” “La Razón de Estar Contigo,” “Qua la zampa!,” “Quatro Vidas de um Cachorro”

MPAA Rating: PG for thematic elements and some peril.

Reviewed by: Raphael Vera
CONTRIBUTOR

Not recommended
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Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
Family Teens Adults
Genre:
Adventure Drama Adaptation
Length:
2 hr.
Year of Release:
2017
USA Release:
January 27, 2017 (wide—3,058 theaters)
DVD: May 2, 2017
Copyright, Universal Pictures click photos to ENLARGE Copyright, Universal Pictures Copyright, Universal Pictures Copyright, Universal Pictures Copyright, Universal Pictures Copyright, Universal Pictures Copyright, Universal Pictures Copyright, Universal Pictures Copyright, Universal Pictures Copyright, Universal Pictures
Relevant Issues
Copyright, Universal Pictures

REINCARNATION—Does the Bible allow for this possibility? Answer

resurrection of the dead


anthropomorphizing of animals—the attribution of human characteristics, purposes or behavior to an animal—a literary device


RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN HUMANS AND ANIMALS—What relationship did our Creator intend when he created animals and Adam and Eve, living in the Garden of Eden? How did this relationship later change due to mankind’s sin/evil, God’s curse, and the worldwide Flood judgment?

What will the Biblical Millennium be like? Answer

What might be a dog’s purpose from our Creator’s viewpoint?


What is the meaning of life?


responsibilities, joys and problems of owning a pet

pet euthanasia

animals in the Bible


drunkenness and alcoholism

Featuring: Britt Robertson … Hannah
Josh Gad … Dog (voice)
Dennis QuaidEthan
K.J. Apa … Ethan
Peggy Lipton …
Logan Miller … Todd
Luke Kirby … Jim
John Ortiz … Carlos (credit only)
Gabrielle Rose … Grandma Fran
Juliet Rylance … Elizabeth
Caroline Cave … Ellen - The Boss's Wife
Pooch Hall … Al
more »
Director: Lasse Hallström (Lasse Hallstrom)—“Chocolat” (2000), “Hachi: A Dog's Tale” (2009), “The Hundred-Foot Journey” (2014)
Producer: Amblin Entertainment
Walden Media
more »
Distributor: Universal Pictures

dogs die over and over again, plus there’s reincarnation

“A Dog’s Purpose” opens with the thoughts of a newborn puppy as he asks the very profound question, “What is the meaning to life?” This is a question he will ask himself several times throughout the movie, as we follow him through life and death, and then life again, because, you see, soon after he closes his eyes for the last time in one life, he finds himself opening them at the beginning of another one, as a new dog. Josh Gad (“Frozen”) is not only the canine voice of the main character, but of the film itself, since it is told entirely from the dog’s point of view.

The year is 1962, and 12-year old Ethan (Bryce Gheisar) and his mom rescue a puppy they find dying of thirst in a locked car. Soon, as an adopted member of the family, we get a first-hand look into how life appears, as seen through the eyes of the family pet. Always innocent and simplistic in his observations, he ultimately looks to brighten the lives of those around him, and, for the most part, he succeeds.

Although the dog will also experience life as a brave K9 police dog, the lovable tiny companion to a lonely college girl, and the big neglected watchdog to a poor couple, he will remember his most meaningful experience as the time he spent belonging to the boy Ethan. A film intended for families, however, there are elements that are, surprisingly, not for all audiences.

Objectionable Content

Language: The Lord’s name is taken in vain twice, once whispered by the mother, when they find the trapped puppy (“Oh G*d”) and later when someone exclaims, “Oh my G*d,” but no other swear words are said. The tone of the language can be harsh at times, for example, when Bailey messes up the dad’s home office and the dad yells repeatedly at Ethan to clean it up, or when later one of Ethan’s high school teammates mocks his dad in order to provoke Ethan. There are also a few scenes of Ethan’s dad and mom verbally fighting in the background, and, one time, it gets a little rough, and Ethan yells accusingly at his dad, which small children will find disturbing.

Violence: There is a scene of Ethan as a high schooler punching a teammate, his dad shoving his mom aside too hard, a kidnapping, a young girl falling into a reservoir and almost drowning, and a graphic scene where a central character is shot and a lot of blood is shown. A house is set on fire, and someone gets badly injured as a result. A veterinarian euthanizes a dog and, although this, as well as his other deaths, are tastefully depicted by the closing of the dog’s eyes as he goes to “sleep,” this may require some uncomfortable explanations for parents of younger children.

Sex/Nudity: There is brief kissing between Ethan (K.J. Apa) and his high school girlfriend Hannah (Britt Robertson), and, later, by others, as well. One scene shows a young couple in swimsuits about to jump into a lake.

Alcohol is in the background of a few key scenes, but the film does a good job of portraying its abuse in a bad light. The characters that are shown drinking to excess, bring trouble and grief to themselves and those around them, just as God told us it would (Romans 13:13).

Lessons

For a film that, on the face of it, is only looking at the meaning of life from a dog’s point of view, it also relates a bird’s eye view of some of man’s very real struggles and issues. Fortunately, all our answers can be found in the Word of God, including those questions focused on herem especially reincarnation, alcoholism (see prior section), and self-sacrifice.

Reincarnation of the soul: The adventures of a loving dog getting to return after death promotes an idea that goes solidly against what God has taught us in His Word, namely that we have but one life.

“Just as people are destined to die once, and after that to face judgment…” (Hebrews 9:27).

Additionally, in the parable of the rich man and the poor beggar Lazarus, Jesus teaches us that upon death both the saved and unsaved receive their just rewards (Luke 16:22-23).

There is no other conclusion from Scripture, and to even entertain the idea of reincarnation is an offense to God and a disservice to the young and impressionable minds that we will be held accountable for (Matthew 18:6). Speaking of those young minds, this concept is bound to cause more questions than comfort for any children that see this film and have already lost a dog or cat, and who now may be in anticipation of seeing their beloved pet again, only in a different form.

Sacrifice: Ethan gets a chance to prove his worth when the family is endangered, and he puts everyone else’s safety ahead of his own. God asks no less from any of us.

“Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others” (Philippians 2:3-4).

Despite some fine performances by the main characters, the film frankly comes off as a lackluster effort wrapped within a narrative sparingly told. Director Lasse Hallström (“Hachi: A Dog’s Tale”—2009) assumes audiences will use their imagination to fill in missing plot and character motivations, perhaps because that’s exactly the way dogs see life—a minimalist approach that will have some audience appeal, but may also serve as a reminder that so many truly live their lives on a dog’s level, seeing the world as though it exists for them alone, and that the whole point of life is to have fun in the here and now. A fine lesson for a dog, but a poor one for the rest of us.

“A Dog’s Purpose” is often a somber, and, at times, distressing tale. A family film that is not lighthearted enough for its intended audience, children, and as for the rest of us, may just be too long a ride for the emotional payoff at the end. This, in addition to the reincarnation angle, is why I cannot recommend this film.

Violence: Moderate / Profanity: Mild / Sex/Nudity: Mild

Editor’s Note: Be aware that some viewers of this fictional film (and reader’s of the novel on which it is based) have apparently become believers in REINCARNATION.

  • “Now that I’ve read this book, I believe [my dog] Bo's soul had been around a long time.”
  • “This movie reaffirms my suspicions that my first dog Soupy has been reincarnated into my current pooch, also Soupy. …my heart and mind fully believes Soupy is my forever dog, even though her physical body cannot withstand longer than 15 years.”
  • “This…tale is told by a spiritual guide dog who teaches us… Bailey the dog knows the profound truths: there is no death…”

Based on the Bible, it is certain that reincarnation is a deadly lie; eternity awaits the human soul after death. There is a real Heaven and a real Hell, and God judges who will ultimately go to each after their death. The Satanic fraud of reincarnation (cyclic existence, transmigration of souls, past and future lives) has deceived millions of people, including Buddhists, Hindus, Jainists, Sikhs, Rosicrucians, Kabbalahists, and more. Instead of believing the truth about Creation in paradise, man’s fall to sin, the entrance of death into the world, and God’s plan of salvation, they accept a counterfeit—and reject the Creator’s gracious gift of eternal salvation. The result is eternal death. Learn more about what the Bible says about REINCARNATION

Will your dog (or other pet) be in Heaven? Animals have no eternal souls. But, if, in Heaven, you really want your pet, if it appears, it will be due to a loving miracle of God on your behalf, and not the result of reincarnation or evidence of an animal soul.

See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.


Viewer CommentsSend your comments
Comments below:
Positive
Positive—I went to see the movie “A Dog’s Purpose” this afternoon and actually was pleasantly surprised. I’d heard some negative things, but I think many of those things have been overblown. I know one thing that some people didn’t like was the “reincarnation” theme, but watching the film I’d have to say that it’s not really about that but about LIFE, the decisions we make, and how things often go full circle.

It’s also about how pets impact our lives. I’d say a piece of our first pet is in our next pet and so on, and so often they are angels in our lives. They may look different, but all dogs have the same perspective of living in the present, and are there to help us through the problems of life. more »
My Ratings: Moral rating: Better than Average / Moviemaking quality: 4½
—Kathy Pj, age 56 (Canada)
Negative
Negative—How is this a PG movie? How little children can see wife beaten by drunk husband, and a teenage child hits back his dad. Very, very disturbing. How children can see these shootings, and talks about abduction of teenage girls, and the police go find her clothes, showing it in a ziplock bag, then shooting and chasing of criminals. This is very, very bad for children to see.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Extremely Offensive / Moviemaking quality: ½
—Sam, age 41 (USA)

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Movie Critics

…painfully cheesy pablum… adorable, but forgettable… [2/4]
—Katie Walsh, Tribune News Service

…corny plot machinations… swinging wildly from melodrama to silliness… hokey but engaging tearjerker…
—Frank Scheck, The Hollywood Reporter

…veers dangerously close to kitsch, shamelessly exploiting one of the most reliable tear-jerking devices in fiction—the death of a dog—over and over again…
—Andrew Barker, Variety

…This is a movie so disjointed and out of touch that even the smallest drop of sincerity is mistaken for a barbed rose meant to draw blood. …my soul aches for any poor families who walk into this movie expecting a beautiful appropriation of life itself… [2/5]
—Matt Donato, We Got This Covered

…“A Dog’s Purpose” just wears you down. …melancholy, sometimes even grim. …[2]
—Richard Roeper, Chicago Sun-Time

…sappy… Whatever a dog’s purpose is, it isn't to be in movies like “A Dog’s Purpose”…
—Chris Packham, LA Weekly

Comments from non-viewers
Negative—I haven’t seen the movie “A Dogs Purpose,” because it has not been released yet. I don’t understand why there isn’t more outrage in the Christian community over the movie… It is clearly using strong emotional ties associated with having a dog to get children to sign on to accepting and believing in reincarnation! A movie with multiple deaths of dogs is in itself emotionally heartbreaking for an adult, no less a child. It is first and foremost an attack on Christianity. This will be a tug of war on the minds and hearts of children, any way the story is depicted.

It is shocking that I found out about this movie from a Christian homeschool group, that was actually giving out free screening tickets! I thought “you’ve got to be kidding me!” This is a Christian children’s group enlisting children to go and see a FREE movie that will seriously challenge their belief according to the word of God. Why not just give out tickets to “Harry Potter…” and “Eat Pray Love”! more »
—Deb in Indiana, age 58 (USA)
Negative—I just want to say that I really appreciate the comments by Deb in Indiana. It is high time that we, believers in America, begin to take a strong stand in regards to movies we support and what we allow our children to be exposed to. Unfortunately, our culture is full of “Sheeple,” and there is no way around that fact. Even among some home school communities. However, I am a public school teacher of 13 years, and my wife paused her teaching career as a public high school English teacher, to homeschool our children. We’ve been homeschooling our kids for about 6 years now. I can say, as a current public school teacher, that what you will find in the homeschool communities is far better than in any public school.

The outside the box opportunities to reach the true human potential of our youth is being cultivated in homeschool communities throughout America far better than institutional (private or public) schools. There is a whole world of educational possibilities available within homeschool communities that most people are completely unaware of (with all the stereotyped assumptions about unsocialized homeschoolers, etc.) have no clue about. more »
—Harry Steimer, age 45 (USA)