Our best friends come to screen again


Ben Godfrey, Staff Writer

Throughout the years, there have been many movies made about the relationship between humans and animals. Pets, specifically, have a special place in our hearts and are a popular focus in a lot of successful films. “Marley & Me,” “My Dog Skip” and “Homeward Bound” all come to mind. In my opinion, “A Dog’s Purpose” meets the standards set by those old favorites and maybe even raises the bar.

Directed by Lasse Hallstrom, known recently for his work on “Dear John” and “The Hypnotist,” creates a film that approaches the human dog relationship in an interesting new way.

The story centers around a dog who lives multiple lives. This dog, voiced by Josh Gad, lives, dies and is reincarnated in new bodies and new places but with the same overlapping consciousness. With each new life, he always asks himself the same question: “Why am I here?”

The dog develops relationships with different humans in each of his lifetimes. Each human, in different situations and circumstances, illustrates changing aspects of our human condition.

Ethan Montgomery, played in three parts by Bryce Gheisar, K.J. Apa and Dennis Quaid, is essentially the main human character. We watch him grow up as he experiences love, anger, happiness, disappointment and loss.

In other lives, the dog meets humans who teach us about loneliness and bravery, as well as the good that can come from breaking down emotional walls.

I think the acting in this movie is great, although, I’m certainly not an expert on the topic. Each human character comes from a different walk of life and acts accordingly. The thing that struck me about this film was that it shows the diverse nature of the people of our country and what they go through; that’s not something I typically expect to see in a movie about dogs.

Also, what’s interesting and sort of heartwarming is how the dog in each of his lives can form a bond with every human who will open up to him no matter what the circumstances.

As far as the animals go, their acting was great as well. The dogs performed some exciting stunts and actually seemed kind of personified in their actions. There were some great scenes of a young Ethan running around and playing with his dog Bailey. They reminded me of when I was a kid and I would do the same things with my dog.

By the way, I should mention nostalgia likely plays a role in the way I feel about dog movies, but I know I’m not the only one.

The design of the different settings is immersive and helps illustrate the concept that while humans’ lives may be vastly different, a dog’s love and companionship remain constant.

The music by Rachel Portman is well done. If you aren’t tearing up over something particularly emotional happening on the screen, the accompaniment of keys and strings will surely get you misty-eyed.

“A Dog’s Purpose” currently has one of the lowest ratings on IMDB: a 2.9/10. It’s important to talk about why that is. A few weeks before the movie’s release, a video from TMZ surfaced showing apparent abusive treatment towards animal actors. More specifically, the video shows a German shepherd trying to resist while being forced into a turbulent wave pool.

I’ll admit, after watching the video myself, it does look pretty disturbing. The public’s response to this video was obviously very negative, prompting boycotts and protests. One effort people chose to disparage the film was to give it an outstanding amount of one star IMDB reviews.

In a letter to TMZ, the organization involved in the handling of the animal actors denied abusive treatment and stated that the video was edited in a way that made it look malevolent when it really was not. TMZ denies any editing of the video, saying they posted the footage as they received it.

Despite the impact of this controversy (and whether the accusations have truth or not), “A Dog’s Purpose” still grossed $18.3 million its opening weekend. I really enjoyed watching this film. Although it was somewhat predictable and cliche, I’m a sucker for nostalgia and emotional appeal. If you’re like me, definitely go see the movie.

Ben Godfrey is a staff writer for The Dakota Student. He can be reached at [email protected]