A Dog’s Purpose – Review

Absolutely wooful.

The latest animal-lover tearjerker has been drenched in controversy since a video leaked online of a German Shepherd being lowered into rushing water, as part of a scene. The dog was clearly distressed, sparking accusations of animal abuse across the net. That aside, it’s important to look at A Dog’s Purpose without any prejudice, but funnily enough, it still turned out to be truly terrible.

A dog (voiced by an excellent Josh Gad) tries to find its purpose in life after being reincarnated and having multiple owners.

© – Universal Pictures

Our poor dog, Bailey, is given new life four times throughout the film. Our first owner, a young boy called Ethan (played by a talented Bryce Gheisar), finds him suffocating in a hot car. From here, we see Ethan grow up with his trusty sidekick, with all the typical shenanigans you’d expect from a dog outing, such as eating something important which leads to poo fishing, knocking tables over – the works. In this first half it manages to be enjoyable, but more in a sort of Channel 5 afternoon movie kind of way rather than the delights of Marley and Me or Turner and Hooch.

The cast in this chapter of the tale are all astoundingly mediocre apart from young Ethan, which goes from comical to insulting for such a high profile affair. Before we know it, Bailey has a new form. But that’s also a problem – director Lasse Hallström has ignored all notions of balance, squeezing three other chapters into a small space of time. This means that the novelty of a cute dog actually wears off, as we have no time to enjoy their screen time or the characters around them. Considering ‘dog’ is in the title, this is hugely dangerous territory for the state of the movie.

It goes without saying that all the wonderful canines featured here are adorable in their own ways, but they are denied justice in the face of a direly scripted attempt to constantly tug at our delicate heartstrings. Whilst Rachel Portman’s score may compliment the nonsense, it’s the equivalent of someone playing a beautiful melody over a clip of a dog excreting, except instead of faeces, it’s this pathetic excuse of a film.

© – Universal Pictures

We aren’t exactly dealing with amateurs, for example Dennis Quaid enters the picture later on. But, regretfully, it appears he couldn’t care less about how he comes across, clearly there for the money and nothing else; then again, look at what he’s dealing with. With the story at hand, this should have been heartwarming and heartbreaking throughout, but a lack of genuine emotion from the majority of the cast will leave you feeling empty inside.

There’s also a plot problem to consider. Our dog maintains, through all his owners, that he is still Bailey, but what about his previous owners, or his next owners? Will he always be Bailey? This adds a layer of predictability to proceedings, as there’s only one clear direction the narrative can take. One can appreciate the idea the filmmakers had in mind, but they were barking up the wrong tree with their approach, resulting in a frankly stupid, clumsily handled mistake.

To sum it up…

The only saving grace here are the dogs. Regardless, this film aspires to the level of quality seen in a Hallmark movie shown at 7 o’clock in the morning. What a waste of time. 


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Author: Cameron Frew

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Cameron Frew

Freelance film writer. Words on Flickering Myth, Bloody Disgusting, Movie Corner UK and Jumpcut Online. My five favourite films are: 1. The Goonies 2. Forrest Gump 3. The Shawshank Redemption 4. Warrior 5. Whiplash

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