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A Dog’s Purpose: Ruffer than it Looks

Sarina Caltagirone, Managing Editor

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(Spoilers)

First off, I saw A Dog’s Purpose by myself. Why? Possibly because I was embarrassed for even my closest friends to witness the stifling goosebumps and ceaseless sobbing movie experience that its trailers teased? I wish.

In actuality, many people decided to boycott this film due to the leaked video of animal abuse to the German Shepherd actor by its professional trainer, therefore, leading me to watch this poorly organized film alone. In a theatre of 300 seats. On a Tuesday. At 2:35 p.m.

(Thank God for “Discount Tuesday”)

A Dog’s Purpose, starring Josh Gad, Dennis Quaid, and Britt Robertson, is based on the book written by James W. Cameron. It is about the longing human interaction a dog possesses and seeks throughout the many reincarnations of his body.

While the movie’s trailer provided heart wrenching, emotional, tear-jerking scenes, the movie got caught in its four-story plot, shortening memorable scenes and cutting emotions short by quickly moving onto the next stories. It’s basically a story about a dog telling his story, which is actually four different stories.

Bailey is a Red Retriever placed into the lives of Ethan and his family, and ultimately leads Ethan to the love of his life, Hannah. As Ethan navigates through life dealing with his alcoholic father, he relies on the help of Bailey to comfort him as he grows up in a broken household.

After a climactic event, Ethan goes down a negative path of regret and bitterness, which causes Ethan to end his relationship with Hannah. And as Ethan gets older, so does Bailey. And with that, Bailey moves on to his next life.

In this life, Bailey is a female German Shepherd police canine named Ellie. Her mission is to smell, find, and retrieve, and although that’s what she’s trained to do, her purpose is comforting her police owner, Carlos.

In an extremely culminating scene where Ellie jumps off a bridge into turbulent water to save a kidnapped young girl, Ellie fulfills her purpose by saving the lives of not just the little girl, but Carlos’s too.

After dragging the child to shore, Ellie attacks the kidnapper pointing a gun to Carlos. In this moment, Ellie gets shot by the kidnapper, and dies on the scene in Carlos’ arms.

While this storyline is the most controversial due to the anonymously leaked video taping of the German Shepherd’s training in the turbulent water, it is ironic that it remains the most powerful part of the film in a rather positive way. It is the only scene in the entire movie that brought me to tears.

The scene is gripping, heart-felt, well filmed and has a real life feel to it. However, it’s unbearable to watch and the consequence of Ellie’s life is definitely hard to swallow.

Ellie selflessly puts the lives of others before her own, and although it’s what she’s trained to do, there is no hesitation to help in a time of struggle.

This brings me to question the lives of canine police dogs and whether or not we should be training them to put their lives in danger for the sake of ours. Whether its right or wrong to use a dog’s gift to achieve what we humans cannot will always remain a debatable topic.

However, with this impactful and rather bittersweet scene, I made sure to appreciate my own dog for the unconditional love a dog doesn’t have to be trained to possess.

It is important to mention that although the director, Lasse Hallstrom, cancelled the premiere of the film in Los Angeles due to the leaked footage, CNN reports that the animal organization, American Humane, said the investigation confirms no animals were harmed and appropriate safety measures were performed.

CNN concludes that the leaked video was misleading to the public, was released to create controversy before the premiere, and mischaracterized the training on set.

Despite this, whether you decide to see A Dog’s Purpose in theatres, choose to download it illegally, or even wait till Black Friday where it’s priced at a much valued $4 at Target, this film highlighted the different perspectives of a dog owner, including treatment, purpose, and companionship.

While the film is poorly organized and falls short to many desirable emotions everyone expected to feel, it has an almost pathetic likability to it.

It made me realize not everyone treats their dogs, or even all pets, the way I do. Every owner has a different life set in stone for their pet. Which, depending on your experience, can either be a really appreciative or discomforting thought.

In Bailey’s last life, he is sold to an irresponsible and heartless couple who keep Bailey tied to a chain outside, never washes him, leaves him out in the cold every night, and doesn’t even give him a name. After a fight, the boyfriend leaves the dog (Bailey) on the side of the road.

But, Bailey doesn’t return back. His new purpose is finding a new home, where he encounters familiar smells and environments, which bring him back into the arms of now older, single, and mature Ethan. As Bailey is in a completely different body, he must convince Ethan he’s a reincarnated Bailey who has found his way back to making Ethan whole again.

Now, while reading this plot, one initially expects to be at least ugly crying in an overwhelming excess of joy and relief. I mean, when walking into the theatre, I had hopes this would be the movie that I would watch again and again if I wanted to be an emotional wreck for the night.

I wanted more emotions. I could handle more. But A Dog’s Purpose is the dog movie you watch if you can’t handle Marley and Me. Basically, if Marley’s too much, you pick Bailey.

And unfortunately, out of an entire two hours, an hour and fifty minutes had been dedicated to the backstory, leaving a mere ten minutes for the film to redeem itself. But once again, it falls short. The audience, or I guess only myself, was left with scenes of rushed predictability, a smile formed only out of pity, and an ending where not even a single tear was shed from a dog lover, herself.

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A Dog’s Purpose: Ruffer than it Looks