Today’s Prayer Focus
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A Dog’s Purpose

also known as “Bailey - Ein Freund fürs Leben,” “Boku no Wonderful Life,” “Był sobie pies,” “Câinele, adevãratul meu prieten,” See more »
MPA Rating: PG-Rating (MPA) for thematic elements and some peril.

Reviewed by: Raphael Vera

Not recommended
Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
• Teens • Adults
Adventure Drama Adaptation
2 hr.
Year of Release:
USA Release:
January 27, 2017 (wide—3,058 theaters)
DVD: May 2, 2017
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Relevant Issues

Pet dogs tend to live their lives joyfully. Followers of Christ should also have lives of joy, for our hope is perfect work of our Savior.

New Age-style philosophizing by an anthropomorphized dog

What is the significance of the NEW AGE MOVEMENT? Answer

REINCARNATION—Does the Bible support this belief in any way? Answer

Resurrection of the dead according to the Bible

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Anthropomorphizing animals—the attribution of human characteristics, purposes or behavior to an animal—a literary device

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RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN HUMANS AND ANIMALS—What relationship did our Creator intend when he created animals and Adam and Eve, living in the Garden of Eden? How did this relationship later change due to mankind’s sin/evil, God’s curse, and the worldwide Flood judgment?

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What will the Biblical Millennium be like? Answer

What might be a dog’s purpose from our Creator’s viewpoint?

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What is THE MEANING OF LIFE? Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy Him forever. The Word of God, which is contained in the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, is the only rule to direct us how we may glorify and enjoy Him. They principally teach, what man is to believe concerning God, and what duty God requires of man.

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Pet ownership—responsibilities, joys and problems

Pet euthanasia

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Animals in the Bible

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Drunkenness / alcoholism / alcohol addiction


Featuring Josh GadDog (voice)
Dennis QuaidEthan
Britt RobertsonHannah
K.J. Apa … Ethan
Peggy Lipton …
Logan MillerTodd
Luke Kirby … Jim
Gabrielle Rose … Grandma Fran
Juliet Rylance … Elizabeth
Caroline Cave … Ellen - The Boss's Wife
Pooch Hall … Al
John OrtizCarlos (credit only)
See all »
Director Lasse Hallström (Lasse Hallstrom)—“Chocolat” (2000), “Hachi: A Dog's Tale” (2009), “The Hundred-Foot Journey” (2014)
Producer Amblin Entertainment
Walden Media
See all »
Distributor Universal Pictures

dogs die over and over again, plus there’s reincarnation

Sequel: “A Dog's Journey” (2019)

“A Dog’s Purpose” opens with the thoughts of a newborn puppy as he asks the very profound question, “What is the meaning to life?” This is a question he will ask himself several times throughout the movie, as we follow him through life and death, and then life again, because, you see, soon after he closes his eyes for the last time in one life, he finds himself opening them at the beginning of another one, as a new dog. Josh Gad (“Frozen” and “Beauty and the Beast” 2017) is not only the canine voice of the main character, but of the film itself, since it is told entirely from the dog’s point of view.

The year is 1962, and 12-year old Ethan (Bryce Gheisar) and his mom rescue a puppy they find dying of thirst in a locked car. Soon, as an adopted member of the family, we get a first-hand look into how life appears, as seen through the eyes of the family pet. Always innocent and simplistic in his observations, he ultimately looks to brighten the lives of those around him, and, for the most part, he succeeds.

Although the dog will also experience life as a brave K9 police dog, the lovable tiny companion to a lonely college girl, and the big neglected watchdog to a poor couple, he will remember his most meaningful experience as the time he spent belonging to the boy Ethan. A film intended for families, however, there are elements that are, surprisingly, not for all audiences.

Objectionable Content

Language: The Lord’s name is taken in vain twice, once whispered by the mother, when they find the trapped puppy (“Oh G*d”) and later when someone exclaims, “Oh my G*d,” but no other swear words are said. The tone of the language can be harsh at times, for example, when Bailey messes up the dad’s home office and the dad yells repeatedly at Ethan to clean it up, or when later one of Ethan’s high school teammates mocks his dad in order to provoke Ethan. There are also a few scenes of Ethan’s dad and mom verbally fighting in the background, and, one time, it gets a little rough, and Ethan yells accusingly at his dad, which small children will find disturbing.

Violence: There is a scene of Ethan as a high schooler punching a teammate, his dad shoving his mom aside too hard, a kidnapping, a young girl falling into a reservoir and almost drowning, and a graphic scene where a central character is shot and a lot of blood is shown. A house is set on fire, and someone gets badly injured as a result. A veterinarian euthanizes a dog and, although this, as well as his other deaths, are tastefully depicted by the closing of the dog’s eyes as he goes to “sleep,” this may require some uncomfortable explanations for parents of younger children.

Sex/Nudity: There is brief kissing between Ethan (K.J. Apa) and his high school girlfriend Hannah (Britt Robertson), and, later, by others, as well. One scene shows a young couple in swimsuits about to jump into a lake.

Alcohol is in the background of a few key scenes, but the film does a good job of portraying its abuse in a bad light. The characters that are shown drinking to excess, bring trouble and grief to themselves and those around them, just as God told us it would (Romans 13:13).


For a film that, on the face of it, is only looking at the meaning of life from a dog’s point of view, it also relates a bird’s eye view of some of man’s very real struggles and issues. Fortunately, all our answers can be found in the Word of God, including those questions focused on herem especially reincarnation, alcoholism (see prior section), and self-sacrifice.

Reincarnation of the soul: The adventures of a loving dog getting to return after death promotes an idea that goes solidly against what God has taught us in His Word, namely that we have but one life.

“Just as people are destined to die once, and after that to face judgment…” —Hebrews 9:27

Additionally, in the parable of the rich man and the poor beggar Lazarus, Jesus teaches us that upon death both the saved and unsaved receive their just rewards (Luke 16:22-23).

There is no other conclusion from Scripture, and to even entertain the idea of reincarnation is an offense to God and a disservice to the young and impressionable minds that we will be held accountable for (Matthew 18:6). Speaking of those young minds, this concept is bound to cause more questions than comfort for any children that see this film and have already lost a dog or cat, and who now may be in anticipation of seeing their beloved pet again, only in a different form.

Sacrifice: Ethan gets a chance to prove his worth when the family is endangered, and he puts everyone else’s safety ahead of his own. God asks no less from any of us.

“Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” —Philippians 2:3-4

Despite some fine performances by the main characters, the film frankly comes off as a lackluster effort wrapped within a narrative sparingly told. Director Lasse Hallström (“Hachi: A Dog’s Tale”—2009) assumes audiences will use their imagination to fill in missing plot and character motivations, perhaps because that’s exactly the way dogs see life—a minimalist approach that will have some audience appeal, but may also serve as a reminder that so many truly live their lives on a dog’s level, seeing the world as though it exists for them alone, and that the whole point of life is to have fun in the here and now. A fine lesson for a dog, but a poor one for the rest of us.

“A Dog’s Purpose” is often a somber, and, at times, distressing tale. A family film that is not lighthearted enough for its intended audience, children, and as for the rest of us, may just be too long a ride for the emotional payoff at the end. This, in addition to the reincarnation angle, is why I cannot recommend this film.

Violence: Moderate / Profanity: Mild / Sex/Nudity: Mild

Editor’s Note: Be aware that, sadly, some viewers of this fictional film—and reader’s of the novel on which it is based—have apparently become believers in REINCARNATION

  • “Now that I’ve read this book, I believe [my dog] Bo's soul had been around a long time.”
  • “This movie reaffirms my suspicions that my first dog Soupy has been reincarnated into my current pooch, also Soupy. …my heart and mind fully believes Soupy is my forever dog, even though her physical body cannot withstand longer than 15 years.”
  • “This…tale is told by a spiritual guide dog who teaches us… Bailey the dog knows the profound truths: there is no death…”

Based on the Bible, it is certain that reincarnation is a deadly lie; eternity awaits the human soul after death.

There is a real Paradise with God for the repentant believer—and a real Hell for those who reject His offer of salvation. God judges who will ultimately go to each after their death at the Final Judgment. The Satanic fraud of reincarnation (cyclic existence, transmigration of souls, past and future lives) has deceived millions of people, including Buddhists, Hindus, Jainists, Sikhs, Rosicrucians, Kabbalahists, and more.

Instead of believing the truth about Creation in Paradise, the truth about man’s fall to sin the entrance of death into the world, and the truth about God’s plan of salvation, people foolishly accept a COUNTERFEIT—and reject the Creator’s gracious gift of eternal salvation. The result will be eternal death.

Will your dog (or other pet) be in Heaven? If you are concerned and are regenerated in Christ, be encouraged. Although animals have no eternal souls, if in Paradise you actually yearn for your Earthly pet—it could easily appear. If that happens, it will be due to a loving miracle of God on your behalf, or an ability that God provides you in eternity—and not the result of reincarnation or evidence of an animal soul. WITH GOD, there will be no tears and no death.

“…He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain…” —Revelation 21:4 NASB

REINCARNATION—Learn more about what the Bible says

See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.

Viewer CommentsSend your comments
Positive—I went to see the movie “A Dog’s Purpose” this afternoon and actually was pleasantly surprised. I’d heard some negative things, but I think many of those things have been overblown. I know one thing that some people didn’t like was the “reincarnation” theme, but watching the film I’d have to say that it’s not really about that but about LIFE, the decisions we make, and how things often go full circle.

It’s also about how pets impact our lives. I’d say a piece of our first pet is in our next pet and so on, and so often they are angels in our lives. They may look different, but all dogs have the same perspective of living in the present, and are there to help us through the problems of life. See all »
My Ratings: Moral rating: Better than Average / Moviemaking quality: 4½
Kathy Pj, age 56 (Canada)
Positive—This is a fantasy. This is not a Bible lesson. As both a dog lover and a Christian, I find the movie to be extremely enjoyable. The movie isn’t pushing reincarnation as the gospel truth, no more than the Star Wars series is saying “The Force” is real—this is FICTION, folks. I guess if you’re going to take every story so seriously and you’re going to shield your children from it, then this is not for you. On the other hand, if you enjoy a well told story, and your children are able to tell what’s real and what isn’t, then by all means see this!

As a final note, unlike some recent Disney releases of late, there are no thinly disguised politically correct agendas.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Good / Moviemaking quality: 5
GR, age 63 (USA)
Negative—How is this a PG movie? How little children can see wife beaten by drunk husband, and a teenage child hits back his dad. Very, very disturbing. How children can see these shootings, and talks about abduction of teenage girls, and the police go find her clothes, showing it in a ziplock bag, then shooting and chasing of criminals. This is very, very bad for children to see.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Extremely Offensive / Moviemaking quality: ½
Sam, age 41 (USA)
Comments from non-viewers
Negative—I haven’t seen the movie “A Dogs Purpose,” because it has not been released yet. I don’t understand why there isn’t more outrage in the Christian community over the movie… It is clearly using strong emotional ties associated with having a dog to get children to sign on to accepting and believing in reincarnation! A movie with multiple deaths of dogs is in itself emotionally heartbreaking for an adult, no less a child. It is first and foremost an attack on Christianity. This will be a tug of war on the minds and hearts of children, any way the story is depicted.

It is shocking that I found out about this movie from a Christian homeschool group, that was actually giving out free screening tickets! I thought “you’ve got to be kidding me!” This is a Christian children’s group enlisting children to go and see a FREE movie that will seriously challenge their belief according to the word of God. Why not just give out tickets to “Harry Potter…” and “Eat Pray Love”! See all »
Deb in Indiana, age 58 (USA)
Negative—I just want to say that I really appreciate the comments by Deb in Indiana. It is high time that we, believers in America, begin to take a strong stand in regards to movies we support and what we allow our children to be exposed to. Unfortunately, our culture is full of “Sheeple,” and there is no way around that fact. Even among some home school communities. However, I am a public school teacher of 13 years, and my wife paused her teaching career as a public high school English teacher, to homeschool our children. We’ve been homeschooling our kids for about 6 years now. I can say, as a current public school teacher, that what you will find in the homeschool communities is far better than in any public school.

The outside the box opportunities to reach the true human potential of our youth is being cultivated in homeschool communities throughout America far better than institutional (private or public) schools. There is a whole world of educational possibilities available within homeschool communities that most people are completely unaware of (with all the stereotyped assumptions about unsocialized homeschoolers, etc.) have no clue about. See all »
Harry Steimer, age 45 (USA)

PLEASE share your observations and insights to be posted here.

Movie Critics
…Although the non-scriptural concept of recurring earthly existences is kept strictly confined to the world of animals, the New Age-style philosophizing the four-legged protagonist engages in along the way may strike some viewers as a bore…
John Mulderig, The Tablet
…painfully cheesy pablum… adorable, but forgettable… [2/4]
Katie Walsh, Tribune News Service
…corny plot machinations… swinging wildly from melodrama to silliness… hokey but engaging tearjerker…
Frank Scheck, The Hollywood Reporter
…veers dangerously close to kitsch, shamelessly exploiting one of the most reliable tear-jerking devices in fiction—the death of a dog—over and over again…
Andrew Barker, Variety
…This is a movie so disjointed and out of touch that even the smallest drop of sincerity is mistaken for a barbed rose meant to draw blood. …my soul aches for any poor families who walk into this movie expecting a beautiful appropriation of life itself… [2/5]
Matt Donato, We Got This Covered
…“A Dog’s Purpose” just wears you down. …melancholy, sometimes even grim. …[2]
Richard Roeper, Chicago Sun-Times
…sappy… Whatever a dog’s purpose is, it isn't to be in movies like “A Dog’s Purpose”…
Chris Packham, LA Weekly