In the new family release, “Think Like a Dog” starring Megan Fox and Josh Duhamel, a dog’s funny and reflective observations serve as the backdrop for a story of love, happiness, and gratitude. When a science experiment of 12 year-old Oliver (Gabriel Bateman) creates a telepathic connection with the family dog, Harry, the two become close as they navigate challenges at school and home.
For writer-director Gil Junger (“10 Things I Hate About You,” “Ellen”), the project was a labor of love. He designed it specifically as a story that could be enjoyed by kids but also spoke to adults. It was also something that came from a deep place in his heart, inspired by his love for his children and messages he wanted them to hear.
“I very much intentionally wanted to write a film that kids could enjoy and be entertained by, along with the parents,” he said. “And I also wanted to impart a message about priorities, a delicate message about love and faith and family. ‘Treat others like you want to be treated’.”
Junger, who recounts moments when his own dog offered him comfort among life’s lowest valleys, even licking tears off his face at one point, says that making Harry the “mouthpiece” of the film allowed the story to appeal to kids, but also able to offer observations without being too preachy.
“I started to think about ‘Why is that tail always wagging?’,” he said. “Dogs always seem happy. Why do they have unconditional love? It’s because they have gratitude, gratitude in the simplest of things. As I get older, and I get a little bit more spiritual and understanding the world and myself better, the more I come from a place of self-love and gratitude, the happier I am and the happier those around me are.”
As Oliver, Bateman is Harry’s human counterpart and a commanding child actor for the film, full of wonder and zeal. Junger says he was only three weeks away from shooting and had read over 250 kids he didn’t feel were right for the part. Bateman read for the part and immediately Junger, who counts Heath Ledger, Julia Stiles, and Joseph Gordon Levitt as discoveries knew he had found his next star.
“I will tell you as a seasoned director, this kid is the real deal,” he said. “He’s so smart. Where do you get that emotional depth in the third grade? It doesn’t even make sense. He just has this bizarre gift.”
Along with Bateman, the project features Josh Duhamel and Megan Fox as Oliver’s parents who are dealing with marital difficulty. Neither of the two has done many family comedies but both were drawn to what they felt were the “heart” of the film, according to Junger.
“Josh said, ‘I want to do this movie because I believe in this script, and I believe in the message of love. And I want to make this movie with you’,” Junger explained. “And then to my extreme pleasure, I get a call from Megan Fox’s agent two days later. She reached out to me, ‘Can I please meet with you? I love this script. I love what it says about love and family’.”
Junger, who is quick to point out his excitement for how the film came together, wasn’t phased by the film’s pivot to home release after the Covid-10 pandemic shuttered theaters. Instead, he believes that now the film will have a wider impact of people who need an escape and a return to uplifting content.
“I think everything happens for a reason, let me just put it that way,” he said. “And I’ve been blessed that this movie, because of the placement and the release time. And because of people who help spread the word, I think I’m going to have a much bigger audience and have a much more meaningful impact because of what’s going on at this time.”
“Think Like a Dog,” from Lionsgate, also stars Kunal Nayyar, Julia Jones, Janet Montgomery, and Todd Stashwick as the voice of Harry, and is now available on home digital outlets and DVD/Blu-Ray.
Watch the exclusive “Making Of” video, available in the home video release, below: