A Dog's Purpose (film)

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A Dog's Purpose
A Dog's Purpose (film).jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byLasse Hallström
Produced byGavin Polone
Screenplay by
Based onA Dog's Purpose
by W. Bruce Cameron
Music byRachel Portman[1]
CinematographyTerry Stacey
Edited byRobert Leighton
Distributed byUniversal Pictures[2] (Worldwide)
Mister Smith Entertainment[3] (EMEA)
Release date
  • January 27, 2017 (2017-01-27)
Running time
100 minutes[2]
CountryUnited States
Budget$22 million[4]
Box office$205.7 million[4]

A Dog's Purpose is a 2017 American comedy-drama adventure film directed by Lasse Hallström and written by W. Bruce Cameron, Cathryn Michon, Audrey Wells, Maya Forbes, and Wally Wolodarsky, based on the 2010 novel of the same name by W. Bruce Cameron. The film stars Britt Robertson, KJ Apa, Juliet Rylance, John Ortiz, Kirby Howell-Baptiste, Peggy Lipton (in her final film before her death in 2019), Dennis Quaid, and Josh Gad. The film, like the book, tells the story of a devoted dog who is looking for his rightful purpose and wants to fulfill it.

The film is a co-production between Amblin Entertainment, Reliance Entertainment, Walden Media and Pariah Entertainment Group.[5][6] It was released by Universal Pictures on January 27, 2017, and grossed over $205 million worldwide.

A sequel, titled A Dog's Journey, was released on May 17, 2019.[7]


In the 1950s, a feral beagle/German Shepherd/terrier mix puppy wonders what life's true purpose is. Weeks later, while playing with his siblings, he is caught by dog catchers, is whisked away to the dog pound and is quickly euthanized, wondering if "fun" truly is life's purpose.

The dog's spirit is reborn in a newborn Golden Retriever puppy in 1961. He leaves his cage at a puppy mill and is found by two garbage men who plan to sell him. They leave to drink, leaving the dog locked inside their pick-up truck. He begins to die of heatstroke, but is then spotted by a kindhearted mother and her eight-year-old son Ethan Montgomery, who break the truck's window and rescue him. They bring him home and introduce him to Ethan's father. After they convince Ethan's father, the dog is allowed to stay and is named Bailey.

Bailey and Ethan bond quickly, especially over the summer when the family visits Ethan's maternal grandparents' farm, and Bailey now believes Ethan alone is his purpose. Years pass, and after several attempts at advancing in his job fail, Ethan's father has become a deadbeat alcoholic.

Over the summer, Ethan goes to a fair with Bailey and meets Hannah, whom he soon begins dating. Ethan and Hannah spend their summer together happily though their senior years are upcoming, but they plan to go to the same school; Ethan getting a football scholarship and Hannah following him on an academic one. When he goes home one night, Ethan's father is drunk and shouting at Ethan's mother. He turns on Ethan then and when his mother tries to keep them separated, he shoves her to the ground. Ethan orders his father to leave and never come back.

Later, at a football game watched by scouts, Ethan is offered a full scholarship to Michigan State, but that night a vindictive classmate named Todd throws a lit firecracker into Ethan's house, which results in a house fire. Bailey alerts Ethan, who goes to save his mother. Unable to get out of the door, they head out through his mother's bedroom window upstairs. Ethan first lowers her with her sheets to the neighbors below, then saves Bailey. However, he drops his rope and must jump, badly fracturing his leg and ending his athletic scholarship. Bailey attacks Todd, who is arrested by the police when firecrackers fall out of his pocket. Now, Ethan must go to an agricultural school where he will learn to take over his grandparents' farm. Falling into depression, Ethan breaks off his romance with Hannah before leaving for college, while Bailey stays with Ethan's grandparents. Shortly afterwards, Bailey becomes old and his health begins deteriorating. Ethan's grandparents take Bailey to the veterinarian's office, but Dr. Joyce is unable to save him, and Ethan comes into the office and watches as his beloved dog is put to sleep.

The moment he passes away, Bailey again is reborn into another dog life, a female German Shepherd puppy, who grows into a police dog named Ellie, sometime in the late 1970s/early 1980s, while possessing full memories of her past lives. Ellie is partnered with a lonely widowed officer named Carlos Ruiz, of the Chicago Police Department and works hard at "seeking" and "finding", now seeing the job as life's purpose. The two form a close relationship which ends after Ellie saves a kidnapped girl from drowning and is then fatally shot by the kidnapper. Carlos breaks down in tears as his precious dog dies in his arms.

Reborn again in the mid-1980s as a male Pembroke Welsh Corgi puppy, Bailey forms a bond with an Atlanta college student named Maya who names him Tino. Maya is lonely, and Tino makes it his purpose to find her some happiness. She starts a relationship with a classmate named Al whom she begins seeing after Tino falls for Al's dog, a black and white female Landseer named Roxy. Maya and Al marry and have 3 children. In love with Roxy and now seeing her as his purpose, Tino is heartbroken when one day Roxy does not return from the vet. As a now elderly Tino dies, he thanks Maya for giving him one of his best lives.

Bailey passes away as Tino and reincarnates into his next dog life, this time as a St. Bernard/Australian Shepherd mix puppy around the year 2014,[8] and is taken in by an urban lady named Wendi, who names him Waffles. Unfortunately, Wendi's neglectful husband Victor refuses to let her keep Waffles inside and, after several years, dumps him in an abandoned lot. Afterwards, Waffles sets off in search of a new life. He gradually makes his way to the country area where he spent summers as Bailey and joyfully reunites with his old master Ethan, who is now in his 60s, living a lonely life at his grandparents' old farm, which he now owns and runs. Not recognizing his dog, Ethan hands him over to the local animal shelter but has a change of heart and reclaims him, naming him Buddy. Buddy, sensing that he has finally found the true purpose of life, reunites Ethan with a widowed Hannah, and they get married.

Buddy convinces Ethan that he is his beloved childhood dog, by performing some tricks and responding to key phrases that were known only to the two of them many years back, such as "boss dog". Ethan digs up Bailey's collar, now old and rusty, and places it back on Bailey's neck, and they resume playing exactly the way they did so long ago. Bailey narrates that life is about having fun, saving others, finding someone to be with, not getting upset over the past or the future, and living for today.



In 2015, DreamWorks acquired the film rights for Cameron's novel.[9] On May 8, 2015, it was announced Lasse Hallström would direct the film.[10] On August 5, 2015, Britt Robertson and Dennis Quaid joined the cast.[11] On September 18, 2015, Pooch Hall was cast in the film.[12] On October 15, 2015, Bradley Cooper joined the cast to play Bailey's inner voice,[13] but the role was eventually performed by Josh Gad.[14] Principal photography began on August 17, 2015.[15] During production, controversy ensued over treatment of a dog during filming.[16]


In December 2015, the film switched from a DreamWorks Pictures release to under the Amblin Entertainment banner as per Amblin Partners' newly enacted branded strategy.[17] The film was released by Universal Pictures on January 27, 2017.[18] Universal also distributed it overseas, except for countries where Mister Smith Entertainment handled international sales.[3]


Box office[edit]

A Dog's Purpose has grossed $64.5 million in the United States and Canada and $140.5 million in other territories for a worldwide gross of $205 million, against a production budget of $22 million.[4]

In North America it was released alongside Resident Evil: The Final Chapter and Gold, and was projected to gross $18–22 million from 3,050 theaters in its opening weekend, slightly lower than initial $27 million tracking had the film debuting to before boycotts against the film were called for.[19] It made $466,000 from Thursday night previews and $5.3 million on its first day. It ended up debuting to $18.2 million, finishing second at the box office behind the second weekend of Universal's own Split.[20] The film dropped 40.6% in its second weekend, grossing $10.8 million and finishing third at the box office.[21]

Bruiser Fox was nominated for and won an Jumbone award at the first ever Barkies for his excellent portrayal of a classic English bulldog in this film. Leonardo DiCaprio was quoted on the night as saying ‘If only all us actors were as good as him but it’s not possible as there’s only one Bruiser Fox’.

Critical response[edit]

On Rotten Tomatoes the film has an approval rating of 35% based on reviews from 142 critics, with an average rating of 4.8/10. The site's critics consensus reads, "A Dog's Purpose offers an awkward blend of sugary sentiment and canine suffering that tugs at animal-loving audiences' heartstrings with shameless abandon."[22] On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 43 out of 100 based on 32 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews".[23] Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "A" on an A+ to F scale.[24]

Andrew Barker of Variety wrote: "Viewed in a vacuum, it’s hard to fault the movie’s earnestness; Hallström’s canine cinema pedigree (which includes the superior “Hachi: A Dog’s Tale”) shows through; and Rachel Portman's score is understandably sentimental without going completely saccharine."[25] Frank Scheck of The Hollywood Reporter wrote: "While the human performers are more than adequate, there’s no doubt that the canine stars carry the day. Their utter irresistibility helps a long way in terms of getting past the corny plot machinations of A Dog’s Purpose."[2]

Home media[edit]

A Dog's Purpose was released on digital HD on April 18, 2017, and was followed by a release on Blu-ray and DVD on May 2, 2017, from Universal Pictures Home Entertainment.[26][27] The film topped the home video sales chart for the week ending on May 7, 2017.[28]


On January 18, 2017, a video surfaced on TMZ showing footage taken from the set of the film, which shows a male German Shepherd named Hercules being dragged and dipped into rushing water while visibly resisting.[29] After a cut in the video, the next clip shows the dog being submerged in the water at the other end of the tank while a voice on set can be heard shouting "CUT IT!", and various people are then seen rushing towards the dog.[30] The American Humane Association, which ensures that animals are not harmed in entertainment productions, announced that its representative on set had been suspended over the incident, and that the incident was under further investigation.[31][32] PETA called for a boycott of the film.[33] Actor Josh Gad, who voices the dog in the movie and wasn't on set during the making of the film, said he was "shaken and sad to see any animal put in a situation against its will."[34] Director Lasse Hallström said via Twitter that he "did not witness" the actions in the video, and was "very disturbed" by the footage.[35] Due to the release of the video, Universal Pictures cancelled the film's scheduled January 19 Los Angeles premiere.[36]

Amblin Entertainment released a statement in regards to the incident, saying that "on the day of the shoot, Hercules did not want to perform the stunt portrayed on the tape so the Amblin production team did not proceed with filming that shot," and that "Hercules is happy and healthy."[37] On February 4, 2017, the American Humane Association reported that an independent third-party animal-cruelty expert had concluded that safety measures on the set of the film were in place and the video had been deliberately edited to mislead the public.[38]


On June 21, 2017, CEO of Amblin Entertainment Michael Wright announced that a sequel was in development.[39] On August 26, 2018, Universal began production on the sequel, which is directed by Gail Mancuso, and was released on May 17, 2019.[7] In addition to Quaid and Gad reprising their roles, the cast will also include Marg Helgenberger, (replacing Peggy Lipton who had become seriously ill), Betty Gilpin, Kathryn Prescott and Henry Lau.[40] The trailer for the sequel, titled A Dog's Journey, was released in January 2019.[41]


  1. ^ "Rachel Portman Scoring Lasse Hallstrom's 'A Dog's Purpose' – Film Music Reporter". filmmusicreporter.com. Retrieved 19 January 2017.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g Scheck, Frank (January 24, 2017). "'A Dog's Purpose': Film Review". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved October 10, 2019.
  3. ^ a b McNary, Dave (November 4, 2016). "AFM: Mister Smith Pacts Power its Picture Pipeline". Variety. Retrieved 18 June 2020.
  4. ^ a b c "A Dog's Purpose (2017)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved November 13, 2019.
  5. ^ Scheck, Frank (January 24, 2017). "'A Dog's Purpose': Film Review". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved February 3, 2017. Production companies: Amblin Entertainment, Reliance Entertainment, Walden Media, Pariah Entertainment Group Distributor: Universal Pictures
  6. ^ Barker, Andrew (January 24, 2016). "Film Review: 'A Dog's Purpose'". Variety. Retrieved March 7, 2017. A Universal Pictures release of an Amblin Entertainment and Reliance Entertainment presentation in association with Walden Media of a Pariah production
  7. ^ a b "A Dog's Journey (2019)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved January 12, 2019.
  8. ^ "ALPCA: Nominees for Best Plate of 2014". ALPCA. 10 April 2015. Retrieved November 26, 2020.
  9. ^ Kit, Borys (September 16, 2016). "Bradley Cooper in Talks to Voice 'A Dog's Purpose' (Exclusive)". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved September 17, 2016.
  10. ^ Fleming, Mike (2015-05-08). "'A Dog's Purpose' Set At DreamWorks With Lasse Hallstrom To Direct". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved 2015-10-25.
  11. ^ Kit, Borys. "Britt Robertson, Dennis Quaid Join DreamWorks' 'A Dog's Purpose' (Exclusive)". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 2015-10-25.
  12. ^ Lincoln, Ross A. (2015-09-18). "Pooch Hall Joins 'A Dog's Purpose', Doug McKeon Will Run With 'LBJ'". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved 2015-10-25.
  13. ^ Kit, Borys (2015-10-15). "'A Dog's Purpose': Bradley Cooper in Talks to Voice". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 2015-10-25.
  14. ^ "Josh Gad is Reincarnated Over and Over in the A Dog's Purpose Trailer". 2016-08-26. Retrieved 2016-08-26.
  15. ^ "On the Set for 8/21/15: Eddie Redmayne Starts Fantastic Beasts, Russo Brothers Wrap Up Captain America: Civil War". SSN Insider. 2015-08-21. Archived from the original on 2015-08-22. Retrieved 2015-10-25.
  16. ^ https://www.tmz.com/2017/01/18/a-dogs-purpose-german-shepherd-abuse-video/
  17. ^ Busch, Anita (December 16, 2016). "It's Official: Spielberg, DreamWorks, Participant, eOne, Others Pact For Amblin Partners". Deadline.com. Retrieved November 6, 2016.
  18. ^ Busch, Anita (2015-09-22). "'A Dog's Purpose' Movie Based On Best-Selling Book To Unleash In 2017". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved 2016-01-27.
  19. ^ "Box Office: Can 'A Dog's Purpose' Still Win the Weekend After Canine Controversy?". Variety. Retrieved January 24, 2017.
  20. ^ "Box Office Top 20: 'A Dog's Purpose' is second to 'Split'". Business Insider. Associated Press.
  21. ^ "'Split' Dings 'Rings'; Auds Keep Distance From 'Space'; 'Comedian' Bombs: Sunday Update". Deadline Hollywood.
  22. ^ "A Dog's Purpose (2017)". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango. Retrieved February 13, 2019.
  23. ^ "A Dog's Purpose Reviews". Metacritic. CBS Interactive. Retrieved February 7, 2017.
  24. ^ "Cinemascore". CinemaScore. Archived from the original on 2018-12-20.
  25. ^ Barker, Andrew (25 January 2017). "Film Review: 'A Dog's Purpose'". Variety.
  26. ^ A Dog's Purpose (2017) DVD Release Dates, Retrieved April 30, 2017
  27. ^ A Dog's Purpose Blu-ray Blu-ray.com, Retrieved April 30, 2017
  28. ^ Thomas K. Arnold (May 10, 2017). "'A Dog's Purpose' Leads the Pack in DVD, Blu-ray Disc Sales". Variety. Retrieved May 11, 2017.
  29. ^ Leigh Blickley (18 January 2017). "Leaked Video From 'A Dog's Purpose' Set Calls Film's Treatment Of Animals Into Question". The Huffington Post. Retrieved 18 January 2017.
  30. ^ "'A Dog's Purpose' Video Shows Terrified German Shepherd Forced to Film". tmz.com. Retrieved 19 January 2017.
  31. ^ "'A Dog's Purpose' Video Triggers Suspension". TMZ. January 18, 2017. Retrieved January 18, 2017.
  32. ^ Catherine Garcia (18 January 2017). "Investigation opened into 'disturbing' treatment of German shepherd on set of A Dog's Purpose". The Week. Retrieved 18 January 2017.
  33. ^ "PETA Calls for Boycott of ‘A Dog’s Purpose’ After Disturbing Video Surfaces", Dave McNary. Variety. January 18, 2017. Accessed January 18, 2017
  34. ^ Sandra Gondalez (19 January 2017). "'A Dog's Purpose' faces backlash after 'disturbing' video surfaces". CNN.com. Retrieved 17 January 2017.
  35. ^ Bryan Alexander (19 January 2017). "'A Dog's Purpose' reels after outrage over disturbing set video". USA Today. Retrieved 19 January 2017.
  36. ^ "Universal Pictures cancels premiere of 'A Dog's Purpose'". 20 January 2017.
  37. ^ Karen Mizoguchi (19 January 2017). "A Dog's Purpose Releases Statement Following Controversial Video: We 'Foster an Ethical, Safe Environment for Animals'". People. Retrieved 19 January 2017.
  38. ^ "Third Party Investigation Finds No Animal Injuries, Cruelty on Set of 'A Dog's Purpose'". The Hollywood Reporter. February 4, 2017. Retrieved February 4, 2017.
  39. ^ "A Dog's Purpose Sequel is Happening Because Of China". slashfilm.com. 21 June 2017.
  40. ^ "Betty Gilpin Joins Dennis Quaid, Josh Gad in 'A Dog's Purpose' Follow-Up (Exclusive)". Hollywoodreporter.com. 26 August 2018.
  41. ^ Schaffstall, Katherine. "'A Dog's Journey' Trailer: Josh Gad Returns as Bailey in 'Dog's Purpose' Sequel". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 31 January 2019.

External links[edit]