I was debating whether to see the adventure movie “The Mountain Between Us” after noticing in the previews that it wasn’t only human characters trying to survive in the wilds of Idaho, but a charismatic yellow lab that came through a plane crash with them.
In the preview’s brief glimpses, the dog cutely cocks his head sideways, makes empathetic little whimpers and acts brave and endearing.
What a dilemma. Clearly the movie is about survival and lethal situations in extreme, snow-covered wilderness. We know there’s a mountain lion and we know people get pretty hungry stranded for weeks. So, does this movie fail the “does the dog die” test? Is there any remote chance that they actually eat the dog to survive?
To answer these important questions, of course I searched online with the question “Does the dog die in…”
The response thrilled me with the news that I am not alone in my resolve to avoid all dog tragedies in movies that I pay good money to see. This is apparently such a common concern that there is a website doesthedogdie.com. It allows viewers to offer urgent advice to other animal softies and even answers such important questions as whether or not there are clowns, snakes and vomiting in a movie. Whew, and I thought I was weird in my movie phobias. This discovery of a like-minded community was as good as running into other fans wearing Steelers jackets in a sports bar. I found my tribe.
The producers of “The Mountain Between Us” must have heard from other people like me after their preview had the mixed blessing of bringing out all the dog lovers with its winning canine character. They released a follow-up preview that begins with huge letters proclaiming “Spoiler alert. The dog lives.” The preview had 87,187 views when I checked this week. It’s always wise to give the customer what she wants, especially if yellow labs are involved.
I was scarred years ago while watching “Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey” with my preteen nephews and niece. It’s the story of a noble old golden retriever, a rude cat and an adventurous puppy running away from their boarding kennel to find their family. Naturally, they must cross intimidating mountains and evade dangerous predators. But when it seemed certain that Shadow, the golden, was not going to survive being trapped in a deep hole, I got too upset to continue. My small relatives soldiered on and later told me of the heartwarming ending when Shadow slowly limps across a field to be reunited with his family. When the kids you’re babysitting are so much more mature that they have to find you hiding in another room, it’s a bit embarrassing.
But that experience began my careful vetting of movies involving animals. I overcame my qualms and saw “War Horse,” partly because it was a Steven Spielberg movie and how bad could it be? The answer is that it could be as bad as you’d expect when “war” and “horse” are in the same sentence.