Archie Channing is a hard-driving business owner whose sole purpose in life is to become a multi-billionaire by age 40, regardless of who or what he has to step on to achieve his goal. Employees (“snot-pocket kids”), family (“losers”), dogs (“useless, filthy, unpredictable”) and women (“just like dogs”) are viewed with contempt and are only as valuable as their contribution to the profit margin.
Archie’s latest plot to enrich himself and make his stockholders beam threatens to leave behind a turbulent wake of stunned employees. Pressure and oppression are his watchwords. He even has a right-hand hatchet man (Dexter) primed and ready to do his dirty work. Dexter's first big task? Play a CD-ROM at the stockholders' meeting outlining Archie's sweeping changes ... while Archie is conveniently away from the office.
Here's where the story gets a bit goofy. Archie inexplicably hides the CD and speeds off in his luxury convertible. And that's when he has an unexpected date with destiny. Swerving to avoid a dog planted firmly in the middle of the road, Archie's car rolls over and he finds himself in heaven’s waiting room where a quartet of angels discuss his fate.
Is he worthy to go through the pearly gates? After looking long and hard to find a time when he’s helped someone besides himself, the angels come up empty handed. Still, he did swerve to avoid the dog, one argues, and they eventually agree, “We must save every soul possible, even this lowly creature.” With God’s input (expressed in sunny-sky thunder claps), the angels devise a poetically just plan of redemption. Archie is to return to earth as a dog—the very same one he nearly squashed—a fluffy white Pomeranian they call Quigley. If he can successfully complete two assignments, the angels will consider allowing him into heaven.
So, accompanied only by a bumbling guardian angel named Sweeney, Quigley crashes back to earth and trots off to right his wrongs. But first, he has to figure out what right and wrong are.
Through angelic huddle-ups, Sweeney’s admonitions to Quigley, sweet pictures of Archie’s brother’s family life and Quigley’s self-revelations, we learn what’s truly of lasting value. Selflessness, sacrifice, kindness, self-control, sincere repentance, cooperation, humility, trust and charity are held up as gold standards. Conversely, negative behaviors and attitudes reap no good reward.
It’s hard to believe Archie and his brother Woodward were spawned by the same parents. Where Archie has no time or use for personal relationships, his brother is deeply committed to his family, affectionate, fair and respectful. When the financial going gets tough, Woodward and his wife discuss her going back to work. Without much effort, they decide her greatest value is at home with the children and reaffirm their commitment to family.
The positive transformation that takes place in Dexter once he’s out from under the thumb of his manipulative and mean-spirited boss is a textbook example of the importance of choosing one’s company wisely. Left in charge of the business, he begins to take an interest in the employees, and revamps Archie’s pernicious agenda for the upcoming stockholder meeting.
Biblical truth and faulty theology reside side-by-side. A last-second plot twist minimizes its haphazardness, but families will still have to navigate several obstacles. Since most of the story line centers on a man who messed up his life and is sent back to earth as a dog to atone, it’s impossible to avoid thinking about the possibilities of reincarnation. Additionally, the movie’s angels are jurists, deciding Archie's fate based on works, not faith. And Sweeney (it's implied that he was a human who died and became an angel) is not allowed to give Quigley practical help (though he sneaks in a bit). The Bible, instead, tells us that God created angels to serve as His messengers and man’s helpers (Psalm 91:11, Heb. 1:14, Heb. 2:5-9), that salvation is based on faith alone (Eph. 2:9) and that God is the sole judge of man’s destiny (James 4:12).
In a comment missing from early copies of this movie, God Himself finally attempts to set Archie straight, and when He does so, He's right on the mark. "You cannot earn your way into heaven by doing good deeds, Archie," He thunders. "The only way into heaven is by faith and faith alone."
Woodward’s family says grace at dinner, giving thanks to the Lord for blessings, the miracle of life and health. His daughter Megan tells Quigley that her last pet “died and went to heaven, where he can run and play in the tall grass.” Sweeney warns Quigley that God sees everything. Elsewhere he challenges God’s omnipresence, earning a loud thunder clap.
No negatives. Just lots of healthy hugs and husband-wife displays of affection.
As a dog, Archie is chased by clumsy security guards, and captured by an animal control worker. Several characters slip, slide, fall and bang into each other. Archie expresses his hatred for canines by ordering Dexter to exterminate all dog owners who work for his company, then grudgingly reconsiders and downgrades the punishment to termination of employment.
Other Negative Elements
Scatological canine humor includes a scene in which Archie (as a human) lands flat on his back after stepping in doggy doo-doo. Quigley urinates on a briefcase, leaving a mess which the janitor cleans up with his hanky before—ewwh!—sticking the rag in his mouth and moping his forehead with it.
Megan asks her brother to cover for her while she sneaks out of the house to check the “found dog” signs the family posted after taking in the stray Quigley. While Megan's disobedience is never punished, her actions are seen to have consequences—she gets lost and a search party has to be sent out to find her.
Security guards and a dog catcher are unrelentingly portrayed as imbeciles.
Quigley is a kooky, hyper-campy grade-C comedy that still serves up lots of fun fodder for family discussions about the consequences of our actions, both good and bad. The movie’s emphasis on the value of investing in the lives of others is admirable. But its seemingly work-righteous premise plays squarely into man’s temptation to believe he can control his own destiny by doing good and trying to earn his way into heaven. Faith-focused parents will need to spend time unpacking the contents of this film for impressionable children, reinforcing God's promise that we are saved by faith alone (a point the film ultimately makes, but doesn't drive home), and giving thanks that we don’t have to work our way into His good graces.