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Earlier this year, footage of a dog allegedly being mistreated during the filming of a scene on the set of A Dog’s Purpose angered online activists, and quickly went viral. Independent investigators later found that the tape had been heavily edited, and that no animals had been mistreated. If you’ve avoided seeing A Dog’s Purpose because of apparent animal mistreatment, rest assured, the footage was doctored.

Now, to the movie itself. The spirit of one dog (voiced by Josh Gad) goes through five incarnations on its quest to find its purpose for being. After a a quick stint as an unclaimed mongrel who gets put down very young, he is reincarnated as a red retriever named Bailey, and finds a home with farm boy Ethan (Bryce Gheiser at age 8, K.J. Alpa as a teenager). The two quickly form a close, and inseparable bond. Bailey is there for Ethan as he grows up in the 1960’s, becoming a star on the high school football team, and remains “Boss Dog” even as Ethan first girlfriend Hannah (Britt Robertson) joins the ‘pack.’

Bailey is as content as any dog can be, but nothing lasts forever. Eventually, Bailey grows old, and tired. Death comes (several times), but Bailey is brought back to Earth, as a variety of canine breeds throughout the decades. While he may look different, and his owner of the moment may call him a different name, Bailey longs to get back to Ethan. Based on the bestselling novel by W. Bruce Cameron (who co-wrote the screenplay), A Dog’s Purpose presents a simple narrative with spiritual undertones. Even as he seeks out the simple pleasures in life–food, play, human interaction–Bailey like most of us humans, wants to accomplish something worth meaning in his life. That’s some heavy lifting for a dog. No worries though, director Lasse Hallstrom (My Life as a Dog, Chocolat) makes sure Bailey creates just enough mischief so you can’t help but love him.

While Bailey is plenty lovable, he undergoes so much trauma it’s emotionally draining. He spends the 1970’s as a police dog, paired with Carlos (John Ortiz), who initially refuses to bond with his fury companion. Eventually, Carlos’ takes to Bailey, only to have her shot and killed in the line of duty. The cycle keeps repeating itself as Bailey, no matter the obstacle, works her way back to an older Ethan (Dennis Quaid) in a predictable, if somewhat exhausting ending.

Presented in its theatrical aspect ratio of 2.40:1, this 1080p transfer offers an outstanding level of sharpness, and clarity. The facial expressions of all the canine stars are capture with a sense of fluidity, and realism. Colors are rich, and vibrant throughout, while  blacks are appropriately inky. Skin levels are appealing, and contrast is well balanced. Given the absence of any blemishes, this is a first-rate transfer.

While the DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack relegated much of the work to front, and center channels, dialogue and music has been well recorded. Rachel Portman music travels nicely to the rears, with noted clarity and balance. Atmospherics have been largely placed in the fronts.

English SDH, Spanish, and French subtitles are included.

The following extras are available:

  • Deleted Scenes (HD, 9:24) Fifteen scenes can be watched individually, or as a montage.
  • Outtakes (HD, 2:11) Dog’s don’t always do what we want…
  • Lights, Camera, Woof! (HD, 8:46) A Behind-the-scenes look at the film, including remarks from director Lasse Hallstrom, producer Alan Blomquist, production designer Michael Carlin, writers W. Bruce Cameron and Cathryn Michon, and actors Dennis Quaid, Britt Robertson, K.J. Apa, Bryce Gheisar, Peggy Lipton, Pooch Hall, John Ortiz, Kirby Howell-Baptiste, and Josh Gad.
  • A Writer’s Purpose (HD, 4:44) Writer W. Bruce Cameron and his wife discuss the genesis of A Dog’s Purpose.
  • DVD/Digital Copy/Ultraviolet.