‘A Dog’s Purpose’ Film Review

Grade: C-

A Dog's Purpose Movie Poster

Looking for a feel-good movie where Josh Gad voices the inner thoughts of dogs in a humorous fashion?  There are times where you get a laugh at whatever is going on inside these canine’s heads and it succeeds in the way that is simpler than ‘Look Who’s Talking’ (where Bruce Willis voiced the inner thoughts of Baby Mikey), and 7(x) better than its third entry ‘Look Who’s Talking Now’ (which also had dogs, but with Danny DeVito and Diane Keaton voices), but it is also emotionally manipulative; torturing us with scenes of dogs dying (One of them being the most intense, and not for the major dog lovers.)

‘A Dog’s Purpose’ is based on a best-selling book by W. Bruce Cameron (which I have never read, but can tell it is funny as much as it is sad.). In this day and age of cinema, more books are being adapted into film. I can see that young-adult novels are growing weary and tiresome for audiences in the US, so Hollywood felt the need to take a movie based on a dog’s inner thoughts and turn it into a film produced by Amblin Entertainment. (Everyone loves movies based around dogs, so why not.) I really expected this film to be good, especially in the month of January (where it is said that “movies go to die”.). This movie looked promising by its trailer with a blend of humor and heart. The outcome, however, is in no way developed as it should be, especially since this is a family film, and kids are expected to be brought, because “Aw, look! A puppy that can talk!”, or if you’re one of those movie-loving kids that knows cinema “Hey, that dog sounds like Olaf from ‘Frozen’!”

The story of ‘A Dog’s Purpose’ mainly focuses on two dogs, one soul, and a connection with a dog owner named Ethan. The film starts off so cutesy, yet quickly becomes a heart-wrenching look at the short life of one puppy straight at the beginning of the movie. To make matters worse, our main focus, Bailey (and the first reincarnation) gets taken by a couple of men and is left to slowly die in a hot car. But before things get worse, young Ethan (Bryce Gheisar) and his mother (Juliet Rylance) save Bailey from dying in the heat. From then on, he is accepted as a member of the family; the only exception being Ethan’s father (Luke Kirby) who has no time for play and shenanigans, and is caught up with work, and eventually alcohol.

The film gets to be a bit ridiculous and a little undeveloped when Ethan grows up to be a teenager (Now played by K.J. Apa). Like the usual cliche teenager, he is a football player who jokes around with his friends and enemies, and is finding love in the form of Britt Robertson’s Hannah. The only problem is he takes Bailey everywhere he goes. (Talk about loyalty.) I didn’t mind that he took Bailey to his football practices, or the fair where the whole Ethan-Hannah romance starts. But taking your dog with you on your date? That’s too much for a movie like this! It feels like the dogs in the movie are just there, because the film wants them to be the main importance.

‘A Dog’s Purpose’ doesn’t just focus on Bailey (even though the first segment could basically be its own film with how much the focus relies on this one dog.), or even the last dog named Buddy, who now has to relocate both a grown Ethan (Now played by Dennis Quaid) and Hannah (Now played by Peggy Lipton). We are given a glimpse at the other reincarnations; one of them is a female German Shepherd named Ellie who works as a police dog solving missing person’s cases and being involved in a rescue mission with his owner named Carlos (John Ortiz). While the other is a cute corgi named Tino (in the funniest segment of the film) who is adopted by a college student named Maya (Kirby Howell-Baptiste), who is looking for love, and eventually finds it in the form of a classmate named Al (Pooch Hall) as they go on dates and eventually get married with Tino also finding love with Al’s Newfoundland.

‘A Dog’s Purpose’ would have been a really bad drama if not for Josh Gad’s voice. I wasn’t a fan of him when he voiced Olaf, but here, he brings some much-needed humor for every situation. I laughed at almost every thought that came out of these dog’s minds. It does tend to be as frustrating as it is tender. You can say that ‘A Dog’s Purpose’ is, in fact, bittersweet.   

 

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