The Worst Film Genre? A Movie In Which A Dog Dies

I am boycotting A Dog’s Purpose.

This weekend, I will not be taking my four-year-old son to this ostensible family movie. I am basing my decision not on the disturbing video that surfaced last week of a dog apparently being forced to perform a stunt in rushing water. The video is awful, and if you’re boycotting this movie based on that, I support you 100 percent.

However, I am avoiding A Dog’s Purpose based on the trailer.

If you haven’t seen it: There’s a cute kid and an adorable dog. The dog eats garbage. The dog eats a coin. The dog attempts to poop out a coin. So far, so good — totally a movie I would normally get behind. Then, about halfway into the trailer, it’s implied that the dog dies.

That’s it — I’m out.

When it comes to movies, I’ll watch pretty much anything. Graphic violence? Whatever! Since the age of 11, I’ve probably seen 1.2 million people murdered on screen. Graphic sex? Sure! I saw Last Tango in Paris as a teenager and I don’t think it messed me up too bad. Super depressing movies about death, addiction, prolonged illness, or profound personal alienation? Sign me up! I have a closet full of DVDs about those very subjects.

But a movie in which a dog dies? No. Hell no! HOW DARE YOU!!!

I don’t ever, ever want to see a movie in which a dog dies, or even entertains the possibility that a dog can die. As far as I’m concerned, my 10-year-old pug Lu is going to live forever, and I don’t need some manipulative filmmaker who’s trying to elicit cheap emotions by putting God’s gift to mankind in danger to tell me otherwise.

Now, I understand that the premise of A Dog’s Purpose is that the dog is reincarnated over and over, which ought to lessen the impact of the dog’s death. Maybe it does — I have no idea, because I haven’t seen the movie and I never will. However, doesn’t that mean that the dog just dies continually during the duration of A Dog’s Purpose? Is this movie basically Groundhog’s Day starring a dead dog?

Never mind, I don’t care. I will never watch A Dog’s Purpose.

There are lots of movies that I hear are good that I will never see because I hear a dog dies at some point: Old Yeller, Marley & Me, My Dog Skip, Year of the Dog, Red, Where the Red Fern Grows. I won’t even see a movie where the dog is a total a**hole and deserves to die, like Cujo, where the dog murders people, or White Dog, where the dog is a damn racist.

An a**hole dog is still a dog.

There are other movies in which I’m not sure whether the dog dies, so as a precaution I’ve decided to never watch them. The Adventures of Milo and Otis? Hey, there’s a pug in this movie! I love pugs! Does the pug die? Sorry, can’t risk it. Sounder? I think I read the book in middle school but I can’t remember if Sounder dies or not. Better to be safe than sorry. The Truth About Cats and Dogs? I understand this is a delightful ’90s-era rom-com starring Janeane Garofalo and Uma Thurman. But the title sounds a little ominous to me. Pass.

I saw Turner & Hooch once. SPOILER ALERT: Hooch dies. I never trusted a movie in which the dog’s name is in the title after that.

Sometimes, you watch a movie that seems to have nothing to do with dogs, and a dog winds up dead. I refer to this as dead-dog entrapment. It’s a heinous practice that has marred many films that I otherwise enjoy. Many famous leading men have killed dogs in movies. Mark Wahlberg kills a dog in Fear. Robert De Niro kills a dog in Cape Fear. (See the correlation between dead dogs and fear?) Warren Oates kills a dog in Badlands. Chevy Chase accidentally kills a dog in National Lampoon’s Vacation. Say what you will about Mel Gibson, but at least someone else kills his dog in The Road Warrior.

I can think of only one example in cinematic history in which I was kind of okay with a dog getting killed. It occurs in John Wick.

In John Wick, an improbably lethal assassin played by Keanu Reeves murders approximately 3000 people so that he can exact revenge on one person. There are multiple scenes in which John Wick slices and dices through a small army of bad guys, shooting one dude in the chest after shooting two other dudes in the head and then shooting seven more guys in the head. Perhaps an overly cynical viewer will find this gratuitous. But the reason John Wick is killing all of these people is because one of them murdered his dog. The point of John Wick is that 3000 (imaginary) human carcasses bear equal weight to one (imaginary but still too real) deceased canine.

I agree with John Wick.

John Wick is the only acceptable dead-dog movie. All the others are terrible, and I will never watch them.