Good boy! But the movie?


Fabian Brims, Staff Writer

‘A Dog’s Purpose’ sparked a big outrage about animal treatment on movie sets after a video from the set was leaked to a news magazine. Although an important topic, it doesn’t help the cause to try by manipulating the public with obviously edited footage that dramatized the event. Because of this discussion people almost forget to talk about the movie itself, but unfortunately this film is not worth the buzz.

After a short life as a stray, a dog (voiced by Josh Gad) is reincarnated and ends up being rescued from a hot car in the streets by a little boy named Ethan (Bryce Gheisar) and his mother. Even though the father is not happy, they decide to keep the dog and name him Bailey. He has a long and happy life with the boy and sees him grow up. Eventually he dies in the arms of his now grown-up best friend Ethan (now KJ Apa). Bailey again is reincarnated and becomes a police dog. This goes on and we can watch the many lives (and purposes) of a dog until one day his nose catches a familiar smell.

This is a sentimental, cheesy, and predictable movie, but luckily it’s not a complete disaster. If you are a dog person, the cute puppies and the ironic voice over from Bailey’s perspective will help you get over plot holes and typical plot devices. The acting was fairly decent and showed a sincere friendship between human and animal. Watching young Ethan playing with Bailey just melts everybody’s hearts. It’s clear that we’re watching a very special relationship.

However, the portrayal of the family life is much less organic. The alcoholic father, the jealous teammate, and the perfect high-school love are right out of every random coming-of-age, Lifetime movie. The other chapters are packed with every cliché that the writer, W. Bruce Cameron, could think of, and he’s not able to show us anything new. The screenplay is based on his own book of the same title, but seeing that four other writers are also involved it’s hard to find cohesiveness. The director, Lasse Hallström (Hachi: A Dog’s Tale, the much better dog-movie!) does the best he can, but even an experienced director like him has no chance to elevate the material if the script is a dud.

The actors, while well-cast, don’t stand out as they are just caricatures. 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 attractive for the viewer. Also, the production designers deserve a mention for creating nostalgic sets, which take the viewer on a time travel through America of the last 50 years.

Obviously, the film’s most amazing feature is the various dogs. They are very cute, well-trained, and Josh Gad’s voice-over does the rest to excite every dog owner. It is very unfortunate that the producers couldn’t combine these features with stronger writing, otherwise it could have been a worthy successor of Lassie & Co. As a result, it’s just some short entertainment for kids and people who love dogs.
It could have been so much more than that, but at least it’s fun to watch.

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; PG rated

Print Friendly, PDF & Email