Think Like a Dog Parent Guide
This pooch picture would be more entertaining with less propaganda.
Parent Movie Review
Oliver (Gabriel Bateman) is a budding 12-year-old scientist working on a device that would make it possible to read another’s thoughts. When an experiment goes haywire, Oliver realizes that he now has a telepathic connection with his dog, Henry (voiced by Todd Stashwick). Together, Oliver and Henry will take on government agents, an evil tech billionaire, and school bullies, while also helping Oliver’s parents (Megan Fox and Josh Duhamel) rekindle their marriage. Along the way, Henry will share his wisdom on why dogs always seem so happy and how humans can learn from them.
I have a lot of opinions about Think Like a Dog, so I’m going to have to contain myself a bit. Let’s start with the positives. The dog is live-action and doesn’t have a CGI mouth! Praise the dog movie gods! Henry is not creepy at all, and the voice over work by Todd Stashwick is funny and believable. The rest of the cast give great performances, particularly Josh Duhamel playing Oliver’s dad, Lukas. Although I think Kunal Nayyar is too charming to be a believable villain, he seems to be having fun, so I’ll let it slide. The story touches on some important themes, the main one being that it’s essential to keep life simple by focusing on what is most important. There are very frank conversations about divorce and marriage, which could be a great jumping off point for parents to discuss these issues with their children.
I have a few problems with Think Like a Dog, however, that make me hesitant to whole-heartedly recommend it. A minor quibble is the reliance on potty humor. There are a lot of butt, poop, and fart jokes, which is unfortunate because the other parts of the movie are genuinely funny. As the credits rolled, my three-year-old said, “My favorite part was when the doggy farted on that guy.” Depending on your kids and your tolerance for fart jokes, you may want to sit this one out.
My main issue is a complicated one, but I’ll try my best to explain myself. Over the past few years in Hollywood, more and more films are being produced and distributed by or in conjunction with Chinese companies, and often with an eye toward the lucrative Chinese box office. As a result, many of these productions add in elements to appeal to Chinese audiences and to avoid offending the Chinese government. That can include adding Chinese characters, having some scenes take place in China, and promoting Chinese brands and products. This in itself is not necessarily a bad thing! (Abominable, for instance, was produced in cooperation with Chinese companies and is an outstanding family film.) Sometimes, however, it gets annoying because the story suffers by trying to shoehorn it all in. This production falls into that camp. There are multiple plot points relating to China, but not really to the main storyline, characters conveniently travel there and have random conversations about how awesome China is. The Chinese characters are nothing more than walking Asian stereotypes - super smart tech whizzes whose parents are all emotionally stunted and constantly disappointed. I’m about 80% sure that at one point, Mr. Mills (Kunal Nayyar) lists Mao Zedong as one of the greatest minds of humankind, though his name is slightly changed so it’s not as obvious (he calls him Zhao Medong, which a quick Google search will tell you is not a real person). I want to be clear; I am not saying that trying to appeal to a Chinese audience is bad. What I am saying is that by trying to be as flattering to China as possible, this film fails in two areas: first, it reinforces racial stereotypes (specifically that Asians are a model minority); second, it slides into the realm of propaganda as it provides biased information designed to serve political purposes.
All of this pandering leads to a bloated plot with too many moving parts. If the script had been edited down, this could have been a great family feature. The story in the centre of it is sweet and empowering, but it gets overshadowed by all the extra stuff going on. That said, I laughed quite a bit and I wasn’t bored, which is better than most films I review. For a family movie night, this is a decent option, depending on your tolerance for potty humor and your willingness to discuss harmful Asian stereotypes.Directed by Gil Junger. Starring Megan Fox, Josh Duhamel, Gabriel Bateman. Running time: 91 minutes. Theatrical release June 9, 2020. Updated June 12, 2020
Watch the trailer for Think Like a Dog
Think Like a Dog
Rating & Content Info
Why is Think Like a Dog rated PG? Think Like a Dog is rated PG by the MPAA for rude and suggestive material
Violence: Some verbal bullying. Electricity surges and explodes, throwing a boy backwards. A gun is mentioned but not shown. A boy is kidnapped and threatened. A boy’s collar is grabbed by an adult. A man gets punched in the face.
Sexual Content: A married couple kiss. A teen boy kisses a teen girl on the cheek.
Profanity: Multiple uses of terms of deity. Potty humor relating to excrement and farts, including the term “deuce”. Humorous descriptive words for butt, including badonkadonk, junk in the trunk, and booty. Multiple uses of the term “grow a pair”.
Alcohol / Drug Use: A full champagne glass is shown in one scene.
Page last updated June 12, 2020
Think Like a Dog Parents' Guide
What is Henry’s advice for “thinking like a dog” in order to have a happy life? Do you agree that we should keep life simple? What are some ways we can refocus our life/family on the things that matter most?
Loved this movie? Try these books…
Doctor Dolittle by Hugh Lofting tells the tale of a man who can talk to animals.
Kenneth Grahame’s classic novel The Wind in the Willows lets the reader listen in as Rat, Mole, Toad, Badger and the other denizens of wood and riverside talk to each other.
In Piers Torday’s The Last Wild, a 12 year old boy discovers that he’s able to talk to animals.
After she saves a reindeer, a young lass discovers that she can understand animals and they can understand her in Sun and Moon, Ice and Snow by Jessica Day George.
The most recent home video release of Think Like a Dog movie is June 9, 2020. Here are some details…
Related home video titles:
Adorable dogs bring people together in Dog Days.