A Dog's Purpose


★★

Directed by Lasse Hallström Starring Josh Gad, Bryce Gheisar, KJ Apa, Britt Robertson, John Ortiz, Dennis Quaid, Peggy Lipton

Film Review by Kieran Freemantle


What is the meaning of life? Is it to bring happiness to others? Is it to look out for yourself? Or is it just an exercise in futility? The reincarnated spirit of several dogs attempts to answer this in the family drama A Dog's Purpose. Josh Gad voices the dogs as he is reincarnated over the decades - from a feral puppy to a police dog to a pampered corgi. The bulk of the film follows the spirit's life as Bailey, a Golden Retriever who gets adopted by a young boy, Ethan (Bryce Gheisar) and forms an unbreakable bond. Over the years Bailey sees the teenage Ethan (KJ Apa) become a star football player, falls in love with a girl called Hannah (Britt Robertson) and see the alpha of the pack: Ethan's father (Luke Kirby) become a bitter alcoholic. A Dog's Purpose had a period setting - telling a story from the 1960s to the present day - and the story itself has a '90s feel about it: a combination of Fluke, a story of man being reincarnated as a dog and Paulie, a film about a parrot who searches for his owner and recounts all the humans he met over his life. The invention of YouTube and social media also made A Dog's Purpose dated since it is easy to go online and find videos and memes of animals doing silly antics. There are plenty of doggy antics for animal lovers to enjoy and as Bailey has his own form dog logic, like seeing the cat wanting to be a dog and believing kissing is a way for humans to exchange food. These insights do provide a chuckle yet it would be easy to picture this as something the internet personality ZeFrank would say in one of his videos: ZeFrank is best known for the voice of the 'Dear Kitten' adverts on Youtube where a cat talks about how he sees the world. The use of the animals also leads to the use of come childish humour involving poop and farting. A Dog's Purpose was directed by prolific Swedish filmmaker Lasse Hallström - a man who has made serious, well-received dramas and schmaltzy films. A Dog's Purpose falls in the latter category. Hallström has directed two Nicholas Sparks adaptations and A Dog's Purpose has the air of a Sparks' story: the dogs have a way of drawing people together and comfort people who are lonely, like many Sparks stories A Dog's Purpose has a period setting and A Dog's Purpose has a dark subplot - i.e. Ethan's dad becoming more abusive. The film is emotionally manipulative as dogs die over the years and suffer in some way. I admit I welled up a little bit but that's because I thought about what happened to my old pets. A Dog's Purpose was met with some controversy before its release in America when TMZ broadcast leaked footage of a dog seemingly being mistreated on set but an independent investigation has since stated that the footage was edited to give a misleading picture. This should give some comfort for animal lovers who were concerned for the dogs. A Dog's Purpose does pale in comparison to another recent animal film, A Street Cat Named Bob. A Street Cat Named Bob also had a lot of cute animal humour - yet the story was centred around James Bowen trying to overcome his drug addiction and his newfound feline friend helped him through the struggle. A Dog's Purpose was really three stories that were loosely connected. A Dog's Purpose is a Lifetime movie that somehow got a solid cast and a cinematic release: a film that is designed to make audiences cry in the cheapest way possible. The cute dogs will please the animal lovers in the audience.

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