NEW YORK (WABC) --"A Dog's Purpose" opens in theaters this weekend amid calls from animal rights groups to boycott the controversial film.
The movie earned a lot of unwanted publicity when a clip went viral showing what appears to be an unwilling dog being forced into rushing water.
Sometimes a scandal can help draw attention to a new release, but nobody wants this kind of publicity. The film aimed at animal lovers sure seemed innocent enough, until last week.
It's meant to make parents and children feel good, but the video taken during filming and made public by TMZ is enough to upset anyone. A German shepherd named Hercules appears to be struggling to stay out of a pool while a handler seemingly tries to force him into the water.
From another angle reportedly shot at a different time, Hercules seems to go under water before being rescued. The video has PETA calling for a boycott of the film and even staging a protest outside a Manhattan theater.
American Humane, an organization that is supposed to ensure animal safety on set, hired an investigator to look into the matter, and the safety rep working on the film has been suspended.
Different dogs are featured through out the movie, the idea being that one canine soul can be reincarnated many times over the years. So the dog looks one way when Ethan is a boy and comes back to him later when he's an adult played by Dennis Quaid.
Josh Gad, who voices the dogs, took to Twitter to ask for an explanation for images he finds disturbing. The production company claims Hercules was not harmed during filming, but producer Gavin Palone called the video inexcusable.
It is a big shadow over what's supposed to be a warm and fuzzy family film, though judged purely on its own merits, the film is cute though too slow in parts. But given the disturbing video, "A Dog's Purpose" is simply impossible to recommend.