Friday, January 27, 2017

A Dog's Purpose Review

Riding a huge wave of controversy into theaters is the movie "A Dog's Purpose." I'm going to be honest, I wasn't planning on seeing this movie right away and getting my review out this quick, but that controversy changed my mind. I studied the situation and quickly became super mad. But in the opposite way as most people. If you didn't hear, there was a TMZ video that I have linked there that shows what appears to be a dog being abused on set. A dog trainer is trying to force the dog into water, but the dog doesn't want to go in the water. Then the video cuts to a shot of the dog in the water, which makes people assume the dog got thrown in against his will just so the filmmakers can get their shot, which in the movie is a police dog rescuing a girl who is drowning. Pretty horrible, right? WRONG! If you actually study the situation, reading both sides of the story, you'll quickly come to learn of a bigger picture that paints a much different story. But because we live in a hypersensitive world where people are essentially begging to be offended, thousands if not millions of people apparently refused to do their quick research and basked in the glory of being offended. Which frustrates me to no end. So I "rebelled" against this protest and saw it as soon as I could.

The first red flag for me was that this was a TMZ video. TMZ lives for controversy. They'll immediately release anything controversial that people send them without thinking too hard about it. The second red flag for me was that PETA threw a fit. PETA always throws a fit at the smallest things. They would prefer if all animals used in movies were CGI as they oppose any trained animals being used on set. So a TMZ/PETA led controversy is never going to immediately convince me that something is actually wrong. So I watched the video myself and read what both sides had to say about it and this one is easy. Here's an article you can read if you want more details, but my quick summary is that they had a dog named Hercules who loves the water and joyfully did all the water stunts in the movie. When the dog does jump into the water, they have platforms underneath and a scuba diver there protecting him, so the dog is perfectly safe in the water and under no distress. One day on set they tried to get Hercules to perform the stunt on the other side of the pool. It's not that the dog hated water, he just didn't want to jump into the pool from a different spot. The filmmakers acknowledged that mistakes were made in trying to show the dog that the water was OK because the location was the problem, but even so, the dog was never forced into the water and was never abused.

End of story. This is a movie where their goal was to create a love letter to dogs and dog owners. I have all the confidence in the world that they treated their dogs well and weren't abusing dogs in order to make a quick buck. I do believe that whoever leaked this video to TMZ was probably interested in making a quick buck by giving this video? Why do I say that? First off, if someone on set shot the video with their cell phone because they were concerned about what was happening, why didn't they release the video 15 months ago when they shot it? Because yes, this video is from 2015. And it is heavily edited to make it look like something different is happening. When you watch, there is never a moment where the dog is thrown into the water. The trainer holds the dog down a bit and tries to show him that the water is OK, which reminded me of the times where I gave my dog a bath, but they don't throw him in. Instead there is a jump cut to the dog in the water, which was probably taken from a different time when the dog happily jumped into the water to perform the stunt. I stayed for the end credits and the statement of "no animals were harmed during the making of this film" was there. Thus it has the Animal Humane Society's stamp of approval. And I believe that. So if you were excited about this movie, go see it. Because no dogs were forced into turbulent water. No dogs were harmed.

Now that we have that out of the way, how about the movie itself? Let me start by saying that if you were one who wanted to boycott this movie, but you already saw the trailer, then joke's on you. You already saw the movie. Because the whole fetching movie is in the trailer. We just have a two-minute version of the movie free online and a two hour-version of the movie you can choose to go pay for. That's super frustrating for me. Some movies feel the need to spoil everything in their movie in order to get people in the theater. Thus I try to be less trailer savvy than I used to. If I miss a trailer for a movie, good. I don't like the feeling of watching a trailer where it looks like I watched the whole movie, then I go see the movie and have no surprises because everything was spoiled in the trailer. That's exactly what this movie's trailer does. It's advertised as a movie where a dog is living with a kid who grows up to become a high school student, then when the dog passes away, he gets reincarnated into other dogs with different purposes before he finally makes it back to this kid who is then a full-grown man. Well the scenes with the kid are the first half of the movie. The reincarnated begins in the second half and returning to the owner is literally the final act of the movie.

What this means is that if the trailer got you excited, then I'm positive you'll enjoy this movie. If the trailer made you think the movie was going to be dumb and silly, then you don't need to go see this movie. It's that simple. Personally I thought the movie had it's fair share of flaws, but it was a cute, little movie that I enjoyed. Josh Gad, aka Olaf, is the narrator in this movie, speaking the mind and thoughts of the dog as he lives his many lives. Essentially the angle here is that the dog is narrating the movie. I was one who thought Josh Gad was brilliant as Olaf in "Frozen." He was quirky, funny and had perfect comedic timing. For the most part I think he did fine as narrator for this dog. He didn't really make me laugh very much and his voice didn't always fit the dog that was on screen, but I think he did a good job of portraying the thoughts of the dog as his human lived his life. I've often pondered on what is going through the mind of my pets as I'm living my life. I've had a few dogs and many cats in my life, as well as quite the assortment of other pets, this movie did a good job of making me think of my pets, thus this was a very emotionally effective movie. If you currently own a dog, you're going to want to go home and give your dog a big hug after seeing this movie.

I wasn't a huge fan of the reincarnating thing. I thought that was a silly idea that didn't really work. I think they should've either told the story of a lot of different dogs with different narrators whose voices match each dog while finding a way to tie in the narrative so that it's not just a bunch of short stories or simply tell the story of one dog who lives a long life of 10-15 years or so. Both of those ideas would've made for a better movie. There was also a lot of human drama that didn't work well for me. I suppose I won't spoil those aspects of the movie, but our main kid, whose name is Ethan, goes through quite the journey in his life and a lot of decisions made by him and other cast members didn't make much sense as certain story arcs were either clunky or forced. Then we have the idea that the dog literally goes everywhere with Ethan. He's there at his football games. He's with him on every single date. He goes to the town with him and is sometimes even around school. The movie does this so that we can see every aspect of Ethan's life, but it wasn't realistic. No one takes their dog everywhere they go. Had the whole movie taken place in their house with some sharp dialogue, that could've also been a really interesting idea, but as is it was a bit silly.

So yeah, this movie is far from perfect. It definitely feels like a January release where a lot of the sub-par movies get put while the studios save their higher quality movies for later. There were a lot of story elements that felt forced just to get some emotion out of people and there's a lot dogs that die in this, which if you have a heart it might make you tear up because a pet dying is the worst, but there didn't need to be that many pet deaths in the movie. I didn't like the reincarnating element to the movie and Josh Gad tried to be funnier than he actually was, but overall the movie was fairly effective in what it set out to do. If you like dogs and you were excited to see this movie, then go see this. It's a cute, little dog movie told from the prospective of a dog, which is something that is fairly unique. Had they tightened up the script a bit or made another revision or two, this could've been a great movie, but as is it's fine. It's certainly not worth all of the controversy that was contrived by TMZ and PETA. No dogs were harmed in the making of this film and no terrified dogs were forced into turbulent water. I love dogs as much as anyone else, but the controversy is dumb, so just ignore all of that and go see the movie if you were interested in it. I'm going to give "A Dog's Purpose" a 7/10.

No comments:

Post a Comment