A Dog's Purpose (film)

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A Dog's Purpose
Theatrical release poster
Directed byLasse Hallström
Screenplay by
Based onA Dog's Purpose
by W. Bruce Cameron
Produced byGavin Polone
CinematographyTerry Stacey
Edited byRobert Leighton
Music byRachel Portman[1]
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 million[4]

A Dog's Purpose is a 2017 American family adventure comedy-drama 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, Dennis Quaid, and Josh Gad. It covers themes of loyalty, grief, dysfunctional family, over a series of reincarnations.

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 $205 million worldwide, and received mixed reviews from critics. It was Peggy Lipton's final film role before her death in 2019.

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


In the 1950s, a feral puppy wonders about life's true purpose. Weeks later, he is caught by dogcatchers, whisked away to the pound, and euthanized.

The dog is reborn as a Red Retriever in 1961. Leaving his cage at a puppy mill, he is taken by two garbage men, who plan to sell him. Left locked inside their pick-up truck, he begins to die of heatstroke, but is rescued by a kindhearted mother and her eight-year-old son, Ethan Montgomery. They break the truck's window and bring him home, naming him Bailey. Bailey and Ethan bond quickly, especially over the summer at Ethan's grandparents' farm, and Bailey decides Ethan alone is his purpose. Ethan gives him the nickname “Boss Dog”.

Years pass, and after several attempts at advancing in his job fail, Ethan's father has become an alcoholic. In 1969, Ethan meets a girl named Hannah at a fair with Bailey, and they soon begin dating. They spend their summer together, happily, through senior year. They plan to go to the same college, Ethan getting a football scholarship and Hannah with an academic one. At home one night, Ethan's drunken father becomes abusive towards his mother and him. Ethan kicks him out.

Later in 1971 at a football game watched by scouts, Ethan is offered a full scholarship to Michigan State University. That night, his vindictive classmate Todd throws a lit firecracker into Ethan's house, causing a house fire. Bailey alerts Ethan, who saves his mother out through an upstairs window. Ethan lowers her, then Bailey. However, he loses his rope and must jump, 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 the farm. Depressed, Ethan breaks up with Hannah before leaving for college, while Bailey stays with Ethan's grandparents. Bailey ages and Ethan comes to say goodbye.

Bailey is reborn as a female German Shepherd puppy, growing into a police dog named Ellie, in the late 1970s/early 1980s, while fully retaining memories of her past lives. Ellie is partnered with lonely officer Carlos Ruiz who has recently split up with his partner, of the Chicago Police Department, and works hard at "seeking" and "finding", now seeing the job as life's purpose. They form a close bond, ending after Ellie saves a girl, kidnapped by her mother's ex-boyfriend, from drowning and is then fatally shot by the kidnapper while protecting Carlos.

Reborn in the mid-1980s as a male Corgi named Tino, Bailey is adopted by Atlanta college student Maya. Lonely, he tries to find her happiness. She meets Al, a classmate, after Tino falls for Al's dog, a female Landseer named Roxy. They marry, having three children. Tino is heartbroken when one day Roxy does not return from the vet. In the 1990s, as Tino ages and dies, he thanks Maya for giving him one of his best lives.

Bailey reincarnates again, this time as a St. Bernard/Australian Shepherd mix puppy in 2014.[8] At first adopted by a woman named Wendi, he is named Waffles. Unfortunately, Wendi's husband neglects him, refuses to let her keep him inside, and after several years, abandons him. Waffles searches for a new life, gradually making his way back to where he spent summers as Bailey. He joyfully reunites with his old master Ethan, now in his 60s, lonely on his grandparents' old farm, now his. Not recognizing him, Ethan takes him to the local animal shelter, but later reclaims him, naming him Buddy. Sensing that he has finally found his true purpose, he reunites Ethan with a widowed Hannah, and they get married. Buddy shows Ethan that he is his “Boss Dog”, by performing tricks and responding to phrases that were known only to the two of them many years back. Ethan finds 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.


  • Josh Gad as the voice of Bailey, Ellie, Tino and Buddy, the reincarnations of "Boss Dog", the main protagonist.
  • Dennis Quaid as Ethan Montgomery, an old man who owns and runs his grandparents' old farm.
    • KJ Apa as teenaged Ethan Montgomery, a popular football player who later gets injured and must become a farmer.
    • Bryce Gheisar as eight-year-old Ethan Montgomery, a young boy interested in comics and football.
  • Peggy Lipton as Hannah, an old woman who is widowed and has two children.
    • Britt Robertson as teenaged Hannah, the supportive and intelligent girlfriend of Ethan.
  • John Ortiz as Carlos Ruiz, Ellie’s partner who trains her as a police dog.
  • Logan Miller as Todd, a former friend of Ethan's who is vindictive and jealous of him.
  • Juliet Rylance as Elizabeth Montgomery, Ethan's mother in an unhappy and abusive marriage to Jim, whom she later divorces.
  • Luke Kirby as Jim Montgomery, Ethan's father in an unhappy and abusive marriage with Elizabeth and a depressed alcoholic.
  • Gabrielle Rose as Fran, Ethan's grandmother.
  • Michael Bofshever as Bill, Ethan's grandfather and a farmer.
  • Kirby Howell-Baptiste as Maya Williams, a shy young woman who adopts Tino.
  • Pooch Hall as Al, a young man who dates and later marries Maya, and has three children with her.


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 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]

Critical response[edit]

On Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 34% based on reviews from 148 critics, with an average rating of 4.9/10. 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 was not 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, "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 "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 also includes 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 September 1, 2021.
  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 (5 August 2015). "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. ^ "'A Dog's Purpose' Video Shows Terrified German Shepherd Forced to Film".
  17. ^ Busch, Anita (December 16, 2016). "It's Official: Spielberg, DreamWorks, Participant, eOne, Others Pact For Amblin Partners". Deadline. 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. 24 January 2017. Retrieved January 24, 2017.
  20. ^ "Box Office Top 20: 'A Dog's Purpose' is second to 'Split'". Business Insider. Associated Press. Archived from the original on 2018-08-27. Retrieved 2018-08-27.
  21. ^ "'Split' Dings 'Rings'; Auds Keep Distance From 'Space'; 'Comedian' Bombs: Sunday Update". Deadline Hollywood. 6 February 2017.
  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". 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. 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)". The Hollywood Reporter. 26 August 2018.
  41. ^ Schaffstall, Katherine (29 January 2019). "'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]