Do you know someone who insists that their dog is the reincarnation of another dog from their family history, or even claims that their pet is a deceased human relative in a new, animal body? Or, as a dog lover, are you the one in your family who holds such beliefs? Maybe it’s a look in your dog’s eye, or just the feeling of comfort they give you, that you know only one soul is capable of giving, no matter if their original body has passed on. To be sure, there are things that happen in the universe whose workings that we, as humans, are not privy to. Who’s to say that animal reincarnation is not one of them?
In the Universal Pictures film A Dog’s Purpose, that’s exactly what’s going on, except the dog is aware that it is the same individual throughout the four canine lives the movie depicts. Viewers who have an idea of reincarnation as a process one goes through because one’s work on earth is not quite completed during the first (or first few) lifetimes, will be comfortable with the approach this film takes. The dog, Bailey, whose inner voice is spoken by Josh Gad (Bradley Cooper was originally cast in the role), is rescued from a hot car by a boy named Ethan as the story begins to unfold in the 1950s. Of course, Ethan and his family adopt Bailey, who stays with them until his death of old age, his boy now a young man with crushed dreams of athletic glory and a broken-off relationship with his one true love. Bailey’s next life is as a female Chicago Police K-9 dog. Heroic, of course, enough to go down fighting. Next, it’s a Corgi’s life, beloved by another family until another natural passing. Finally, as the escaped abused pet of a dysfunctional family not too far from where Ethan found Bailey’s previous self decades ago, well, you see where this is going.
A Dog’s Purpose met with some controversy around its release, when a video surfaced that seemed to show a dog being forced into water against its will, during production. The film’s original Los Angeles premiere was postponed due to the backlash from outraged animal lovers and animal-rights organizations. But an independent investigation by an animal-cruelty expert found that all safety measures had been observed, and that the clip had been doctored by whomever leaked it. Dennis Quaid, who plays the adult Ethan in the film, said that it did not seem, in context, that “...the dog was frightened. The dog was acting like a dog who was kind of tired of taking a bath and was ready to get out. And, in fact, that's what happened. They took the dog out."
Considering that A Dog’s Purpose, as of February 5th, has achieved a domestic gross of $32.9 million against a production budget of $22 million, we think it’s safe to say that no bad karma (speaking of cosmic forces at work) was incurred from the leaked-footage incident. And if the karma’s good, it might be part of your purpose to go see the film.
For the week of February 9-15, A Dog’s Purpose is playing at the Cinemagic theaters in Saco, Westbrook and Clarks Pond (South Portland).