“A Dog’s Purpose” sparked a big outrage about animal treatment on movie sets after a video from the set leaked to a news magazine. Although the topic is important, manipulating the public with obviously edited footage that dramatized the event doesn’t help the cause. Due to this discussion, people almost forget to discuss the movie itself, unfortunately this film is not worth the buzz.
After a short life as a stray, a dog (voiced by Josh Gad) is reincarnated and rescued from a car by a young boy named Ethan (Bryce Gheisar) and his mother. Ethan’s father is not thrilled by the idea, however, and ultimately they decide to keep the dog and name him Bailey. Eventually, Bailey dies in the arms of his best friend after a full and happy life. Bailey is once again reincarnated and becomes a police dog. This pattern repeats as we follow the many lives (and purposes) of the dog until his nose catches a familiar smell.
This is a sentimental, cheesy and predictable movie, but luckily it’s not a complete disaster. The cute puppies and the ironic voiceover from Bailey’s perspective will help you get over plot holes and typical plot devices. The acting was decent and showed sincere friendships between humans and animals. Watching young Ethan playing with Bailey melts everybody’s heart. It’s clear that we’re watching a very special relationship.
However, the portrayal of family life is less organic. The alcoholic father, the jealous teammate and the perfect high-school love are right out of every coming-of-age, Lifetime movie. Similarly, the other chapters are packed with every cliché that the writer, W. Bruce Cameron, could think of. The screenplay is based on his own book of the same title, however, it’s hard to find cohesiveness due to the fact that there were four other authors involved. The director, Lasse Halström (“Hachi: A Dog’s Tale,” the much better dog-movie) did the best he could, even an experienced director had no chance to elevate the material.
The actors, while well-cast, don’t stand out. However, the cinematography is definitely above average. Painted in beautiful light and often shot from the dog’s perspective, cameraman Terry Stacey (“The Confirmation”) is one of the few who went the extra mile to make the movie appealing to the viewer. The production designers also deserve a mention for creating nostalgic sets, taking the viewer through the last 50 years in America.
Obviously, the film’s most amazing feature is the various dogs. They are cute, well-trained and Josh Gad’s voiceover does the rest to excite every dog lover. It is unfortunate that the producers weren’t able to combine these features with stronger writing, otherwise it could have been a worthy successor to Lassie & Co. As a result, it falls flat as a disappointing film for kids and dog lovers.
“A Dog’s Purpose” (2017); directed by Lasse Hallström; written by W. Bruce Cameron; with Josh Gad (voice), Dennis Quaid, Peggy Lipton, Bryce Gheisar, KJ Apa; Rated PG