Image Credit: Universal Pictures
Anyone who has ever grown up with a fluffy and lovable canine companion will likely find “A Dog’s Purpose” to be sweetly reminiscent of their own lives. Considering that’s the demographic for this film goes without saying. But recent controversy involving a leaked TMZ video from the set back in November of 2015, that showed an animal not wanting to perform a stunt, might prevent those die hard dog enthusiasts from seeking this movie out. And the IMDB rating of 2.7 reflects the views of all those animal lovers out there who demand the movie not be seen.
Too bad, because “A Dog’s Purpose” while too formulaic for it’s own good, isn’t quite as awful as the IMDB rating suggests. The premise, which is based on the popular book by W. Bruce Cameron, of a dog going through different aspects of life, becoming reincarnated with the same soul embodying each dog after another is, and forgive the pun, quite fetching. Josh Gad provides the main comrades vocal chords playing a dog desperate to find his purpose. At first, the movie suggests that Gad might be the omniscient narrator guiding us through the story arch, but it’s not long before he is the furry critter named Bailey. A lovable golden retriever whose owner, Ethan (K.J Apa) loves very much.
Through Bailey's eyes we see Ethan go through young love with a girl that gives off a “nervous smell” Hannah (Britt Robertson), his alcoholic repressed father-figure, and bullies at his nearby school that feel the need to agitate things further than necessary. This movie might propel younger children to ask questions they may not quite understand, but the overall message is very heartwarming, that it almost becomes to hard to resist.
The main crux of the story than fast forwards as the soul of Bailey finds his new calling inside the mind of Elle, a German shepherd search and rescue dog tasked with tracking down perpetrators. Her owner now is Carlos (John Oritz) who oftentimes finds himself lonely in his apartment. While this narrative proves to be the more interesting one, it’s also the least resolved in terms of closure. There is a couple of more owners and dogs we meet before Bailey finds his way back to Ethan as an adult (now played by Dennis Quaid) who is run down inside his own farm house that he grew up in. We don’t find out much about what Ethan has been doing with his life for over 40 years, but I guess it’s something that director, Lasse Hallstrom, didn’t find important.
“A Dog’s Purpose” has all the gags that make-up the best animals movies before it. You have a cute dog that can do fun tricks, and actors that, more or less, look dedicated to the part. Some of the themes border on sad and a bit too cheesy, but those seeking the movie out for a good cry shouldn’t be alarmed. The deaths of the animals are handled with care, not faltering on the side of mean spirited, because almost instantly after one dog passes away, the film cuts to an adorable puppy like clockwork.
Truth be told, I am a dog lover, and while the human performances more than suffice, there is no question that the canine stars carry the day. Their utter irresistibility goes a long way in terms of getting past all the corny plot mechanics. As the saying goes, every dog has their day. B-