Monday, May 27, 2024

Box Office Scandal: Who Tried to Kill “A Dog’s Purpose”? Hit Movie Almost Died Thanks to TMZ


“A Dog’s Purpose” is a hit after all. The Lasse Hallstrom Universal film has made $43 million worldwide, cost just $22 million and will go on and on now. I’m sure all parties are relieved since the film almost died upon release. It was tarred and feathered by TMZ, which posted what now turns out to be a doctored video of animal abuse. The resulting outcry was so bad that Universal cancelled the movie’s junket and premiere.

The doctored video showed a trainer purportedly forcing a German Shepherd into a pool. PETA went crazy. I received dozens of emails and calls, and no doubt other venues got more. The 2nd Assistant Director’s head was being placed on a chopping block.

And now an independent investigation finds:

  • The video was deliberately edited for the purpose of misleading the public and stoking outrage. In fact, the two scenes shown in the edited video were filmed at different times.
  • The first video scene was stopped after the dog showed signs of stress. The dog was not forced to swim in the water at any time.
  • A full spectrum of preparation and safety measures were in place, including the following:
    • Prior to shooting the scene, safety meetings were held to go over and reinforce safety precautions and protocols.
    • The dog was selected for his love of the water, and had been professionally trained and conditioned for the water scenes over the course of six weeks, using positive training techniques.
    • In addition to one of American Humane’s Certified Animal Safety Representatives, five experts—including safety specialists and animal handlers—were present to supervise and safeguard the dog throughout the water scene.
    • During the last scene, handlers immediately assisted the dog out of the water, at which point he was placed in a warming tent and received an examination that found no signs of stress. Eyewitnesses report that the dog wanted to go back in the water. Still, out of an abundance of caution, American Humane stopped filming of any more scenes with the dog.
  • A veterinary checkup was performed last week at the request of American Humane, which confirmed that the dog is healthy.

Someone wanted “A Dog’s Purpose” to be a calamity and they used TMZ as a willing participant. That’s not hard since they don’t check anything, and are usually in cahoots with their sources. Was it another studio? And why? Why bother? But when that video turned up on TMZ 15 months after the movie was shot, it should have raised suspicions.

Certainly if the dog had been harmed, anyone who witnessed that “scene” would have called the authorities right away. But this video released timed to hurt the film and the people who made it. What I don’t understand is why, when the German Shepherd heard this story, he didn’t speak up right away.  Now we know he was barking up the wrong tree.

Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman began his Showbiz411 column in April 2009 after 10 years with Fox News, where he created the Fox411 column. His movie reviews are carried by Rotten Tomatoes, and he is a member of both the movie and TV branches of the Critics Choice Awards. His articles have appeared in dozens of publications over the years including New York Magazine, where he wrote the Intelligencer column in the mid 90s and covered the OJ Simpson trial, and Fox News (when it wasn't so crazy) where he covered Michael Jackson. He is also the writer and co-producer of "Only the Strong Survive," a selection of the Cannes, Sundance, and Telluride Film festivals, directed by DA Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus.

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