A Dog's Purpose shares the soulful and surprising story of one devoted dog who finds the meaning of his own existence through the lives of the humans he teaches to laugh and love.
I've never been much of a pet person. Horrible allergies growing up (and continuing into adulthood) have pretty much limited me to what sort of animals I can be around and how long I can be around them before the sniffing and sneezing starts. So, if a movie like A Dog's Purpose can win me over (and, full confession, bring me to tears), chances are it's going to be adored by those with four-legged companions in their lives.
We've seen lots of movies where animals take on human characteristics before, but A Dog's Purpose allows its dog(s) to relate to the audience what it's thinking (via voiceover by Josh Gad) without ever doing anything that a real animal wouldn't/couldn't do. The majority of the movie is also told from the dog's perspective, which engages the audience in the plot, as we're mentally putting together the pieces about all the characters we're being introduced to – as the dog isn't always making the correct interpretation of what he's seeing.
All dogs don't go to heaven in A Dog's Purpose – instead, they're reincarnated into a new dog when they die. The movie sets that premise up very quickly in its opening moments, with the first incarnation of the dog we see quickly being caught and killed (visually, it's just a fade to black) by a local dog catcher. It's the next version of our dog that's the important one, and one that takes up the biggest chunk of the running time, as "Bailey" becomes part of the family of Ethan (played by Bryce Gheisar as a youngster, then as a teen by K.J. Apa) and is the boy's companion growing up. Bailey is there when Ethan's father begins a nosedive into alcoholism that will tear his family apart and, even more importantly, when Ethan meets Hannah (Britt Robertson), the girl Ethan will fall in love with – then let go of following an incident that changes the course of his life.
Bailey spends his entire life with Ethan and/or his family members, but he eventually grows old and tired, forcing his master to have to say goodbye. Bailey's next life is as a police dog (and as a female!), although I don't want to spoil too much of the lives that follow (yes, there are a couple more after this). I will say that his final life (as far as the movie is concerned, at least) put him in the hands of characters played by Dennis Quaid and Peggy Lipton. You can do the math here and figure out who they might be (sadly, the movie's theatrical trailer spoils this revelation).
A Dog's Purpose is a wonderful little movie, suitable for all except the very youngest (who might not be able to handle the multiple deaths of the lead character). It's one of those rare family movies that actually features characters that are well-rounded and interesting to watch. No, it may not be the most original or innovative movie you'll see this year, but it may very well be the one with the most heart and warmth. This is a special film that is going to stay with me for a while – I encourage everyone out there to give it a look.
Vital Disc Stats: The Blu-ray
A Dog's Purpose scampers onto home video in this Blu-ray/DVD/Digital HD combo pack from Universal. The 50GB Blu-ray and dual-layer DVD are housed inside a standard Elite keepcase along with an insert containing a code for an iTunes or UltraViolet digital copy on one side and a code for an additional digital movie on the flip side. A slipcover with artwork matching that of the keepcase slides overtop. Both the Blu-ray and DVD are front-loaded with a full-length trailer for The Boss Baby, 30-second spots for The Resurrection of Gavin Stone and The Space Between Us, a full-length trailer for My Life as a Zucchini, a 60-second trailer for Bigger Fatter Liar, and a 30-second trailer for The Secret Life of Pets. The Blu-ray main menu is the typical Universal design, with a still of the box-cover image and menu selections vertically down the left side of the screen.
The Blu-ray in this release is region-free.
A Dog's Purpose was shot digitally on Epic Red Dragon cameras. It is presented on Blu-ray in the 2.40:1 aspect ratio using an MPEG-4 AVC codec.
Universal provides a pretty stunning transfer here, full of lush colors and details, with the only flaws being a couple of small instances of aliasing/shimmering. Black levels are nice and deep in this presentation, and skin tones are natural-looking and consistent throughout. The movie does make a couple of switches (intentionally) in the overall color tone/timing – most noticeably during the sequence where the dog in the movie spends one of its lives as a female police dog. Overall, there's some wonderful depth to the picture, which makes this title one of the better-looking transfers of a current release I've seen so far this year.
Other than that tad of aliasing mentioned above, I detected no issues with banding, excessive noise, or other artifacting or glitches. While I can't quite give this one reference quality, this is a very nice looking presentation that reminds us how beautiful 1080p can be on Blu-ray when it's done right.
The featured track on this release is an English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio one and it's a pretty standard affair – one of those aural experiences that doesn't have a lot of flash, but doesn't have any problems, either.
For the most part, A Dog's Purpose is a dialogue-heavy movie, so the majority of the audio is front and center. While the rears aren't excessively used (while they're almost always active, but they aren't frequently noticeable), there are moments when the surrounds enhance the musical score or provide some ambient noises to help envelope the viewer/listener. That said, the track never really feels immersive, but the various sounds are distinct enough to provide for a nice experience. I didn't notice any dropouts, glitches, or other problems with the audio.
In addition to the lossless English track, 5.1 DTS Digital Surround tracks are also available in both Spanish and French, along with a 2.0 English DVS (Descriptive Video Service) track. Subtitles are an option in English SDH, Spanish, and French.
Deleted Scenes (HD 9:24) – A whopping collection of 15 deleted scenes (although they actually amount to less than 10 minutes total), which come with the option of watching them all together or individually. They consist of:
He's a Keeper (0:41)
We're Raising a Monster (0:37)
I Wouldn't Eat That (0:46)
A Member of Our Pack (0:35)
Bailey Soaks Ethan and Hannah (0:27)
Bailey's Ball Stuck in Tree (1:01)
Elle Sees Hannah in Town (1:01)
Elle Finds an Alzheimer's Patient (0:41)
Carlos Doesn't Want to Socialize (0:53)
Good Girl (0:38)
Old Photos – Version 1 (0:29)
Old Photos – Version 2 (0:29)
Buddy Searches for Food (0:27)
A Familiar Place (0:28)
Ethan or Nothing (0:30)
Outtakes (HD 2:11) – This is a bloopers reel that actually only features a few seconds of bloopers – the rest of the time is taken up with footage of the various animals used in the film in cute montages in front of green screens.
Lights, Camera, Woof! (HD 8:46) – A behind-the-scenes look at the making of the movie, which focuses primarily on the animals and how their scenes were shot. This featurette does not comment on the controversy that emerged about how the dogs were treated on set (perhaps not surprisingly). The presentation is geared toward younger viewers (told from a "dog's perspective" with a female voice-over), but worth checking out regardless.
A Writer's Purpose (HD 4:44) – Writer W. Bruce Cameron and his wife, Cathryn Michon (who co-wrote the screenplay), are on hand to talk about both the movie and how the novel was originally conceived.
Doggonit, I really enjoyed A Dog's Purpose. I'm usually pretty cynical when it comes to kids' movies, since so many of them fail to entertain, but here's a family film that tugs at the heartstrings while still impressing with a well-written story. This one is Recommended.