Spoiler Free Version
The movie had a much faster pace than the book, but it kept the spirit of the book and was a pretty faithful adaption. The ending of the movie is slightly different (for more details see the review below). I would say the movie ending was a lighter, happier version of what happens in the book. It was a cute movie. I enjoyed that it was not your typical dog movie. There were lots of “aw!” and “puppy!” reactions from my kids while we watched it. It was a funny, heart-warming movie that I’m sure my kids will ask to watch again.
If you want to see for yourself how the book and movie compare, I’m doing a giveaway for a copy of each (ends 5/30/17). Big thanks to Universal Studios for sponsoring this giveaway and providing me with a copy of the book and movie to review. You can also read my book review of A Dog’s Purpose.
The Detailed and Spoilery Version
What’s the Same
- The occasional camera angles from the dog’s view carried over the dog’s perspective from the book pretty well.
- Elements from the story are the same in the search and rescue life, but the dog gets shot instead of the policeman. However, the dog does get close to the search and rescue policeman which doesn’t happen in the book. (I enjoyed this change. It made me sad in the book to see the dog and the policeman so lonely).
- The dog is lonely and is looking for meaning in his different lives.
- The dog still lives the different lives of a stray, being neglected, being loved, being sent to the pound, and being a working dog like he does in the book.
- The first life of being a stray was very shortened compared to the book.
- The family dynamics are more detailed in the movie than they were in the book. It’s clearer in the movie that the boy’s dad is an alcoholic. There are hints in the book that there is something not right with the dad but the dog’s perspective limits how much we know. From the book, I thought his dad was more of a workaholic that traveled a lot.
- The fire story is toned down in the movie. Todd is not as malicious and creepy as he was in the book. The dog directly saves their lives instead of catching Todd with a vicious bite that leaves a blood trail.
- The boy calls him “boss dog” as a nickname instead of “doodle dog.” I’m not sure what the point of that change was. He gets the nickname “doodle dog” in the book for messing with a skunk more than once and the nickname “boss dog” for eating his dad’s papers in the office. (Personally, I liked doodle dog better)
- The movie had a faster pace for the search and rescue life.
- The movie combined the kidnapping and drowning rescues and completely skips the rescue in a natural disaster zone that ruins his sense of smell and forces the dog to retire.
- The dog still has a life with Maya but he’s not a retired work dog. He’s an entirely new dog and it’s almost a new life. It shows the hectic life of a dog where there are lots of kids. He hides from the chaos and is loved a little too much :)
- The ending of the movie is different. In the book, the boy (now a grown man) has a stroke (probably, the dog doesn’t know what to call it) and as he’s dying he calls the dog Bailey like he recognizes him. It’s hard to tell if he really does, but it’s a beautiful and poignant ending that shows the dog was there for him. In the movie, the dog repeats mannerisms of Bailey and reacts to his old nickname and the boy/grown man knows for sure that he’s his old dog. Very cutesy, a little forced, but still enjoyable.