Opening wide in theaters this weekend is The Stray, a charming movie based on the true-life story of one family and the dog who helped them change their lives.
“Pluto” comes out of nowhere and quickly makes himself at home with the Davis family, who are on the brink of falling apart. Dad (Michael Cassidy; Argo, Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice) is a career-driven workaholic who is neglecting his marriage and family. Mom (Sarah Lancaster; Chuck, Saved by the Bell: The New Class) is at her wit’s end raising three young kids. The last thing they need is another mouth to feed. Or is it? In just a short time with the Davis family, Pluto the “wonderdog” manages to save a lost toddler, bring comfort and companionship to a hurting 9-year-old boy (Connor Corum; Heaven is for Real), help restore a marriage, and repair a broken father-son relationship. Pluto is not only a guard dog – he’s a guardian angel.
Family movies are relatively rare these days, so when one comes along that supports uplifting values we should support them. There is much to love about this particular film. I definitely related to both Mitch and Michelle Davis, upon whom this movie is based. In my own life, I've been equal parts Mitch, the focused workaholic and Michelle, the stay-at-home mom who feels overwhelmed by the rearing of her children. Interestingly, I could also truly relate to young Christian, the Davis' young child who feels lonely and isolated.
The one thing in The Stray I couldn't relate to is the impact of a dog on a family. That's because I've never been a part of a family that owned a dog. And in this movie, Pluto seems to be at the heart of "fixing" much of what is broken. Since the film is based on a true story, and since I had the wonderful opportunity to personally meet writer-director Mitch Davis, I absolutely don't doubt the impact that a pet can have in repairing strained relationships.
The Stray is heartwarming and full of hope. Particularly inspirational is Mitch Davis' realization that his life is in major need of change. In the end, I believe that Pluto is simply a conduit to needed surrenders Mitch eventually chooses to make. How many of us would have the courage to "pull the plug" on a successful career to pursue our passions, to do what we know is right?
Watching The Stray reminded me that what others consider "success" may not necessarily be the path to happiness and peace of mind. Often, faith helps us to see what is most wrong with our lives and steer ourselves in the right direction. When we lack faith, it's easy to lack the direction needed to see the impact of our life choices on others.
Some have called Pluto's character in The Stray a "guardian angel". You don't have to be a "dog person" to recognize that the Davis family needed change, divine intervention. In their case, as told in this film, help came in an unlikely form, but one that was immediately loved and embraced.
This being said, I must mention that while this film is definitely family oriented, it may be a challenge for viewers with young children. I feel it important to include spoiler alert and share that the "perilous situation" which earns this film its PG rating involves Pluto the dog. So if your children (or your grown-ups!) are sensitive, be forewarned. And pack your kleenex!