A Dog's Purpose (2017)

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A real dog of a tale

Director: Lasse Hallström
Running Time: 120 Minutes
Starring: Josh Gad, Dennis Quaid, KJ Apa, Britt Robertson, Juliet Rylance, John Ortiz, Kirby Howell-Baptiste, Peggy Lipton

Adapted from a 2010 novel by W. Bruce Cameron, A Dog's Purpose feels less like a film, and more like a tactical move made by a studio. Old Yeller and Marley & Me are well regarded among audiences, and considered to be tearjerkers for their endings. So, a film containing multiple instances of the same thing? A shrewd move, but it doesn't get past feeling emotionally manipulative.

The story follows a dog (competently voiced by Josh Gad), who goes through multiple lifetimes and owners, trying to discover what's the purpose of it all. The main focus has him as a Golden Retriever named Bailey, with an owner named Ethan. It's clearly meant to be a sweet tale, but the result is excessively so, to a sickening degree, with a willingness to be emotionally manipulative.

Image result for a dogs purpose youtubeNot helping things are when it tries straying into darker elements, such as Ethan's alcoholic father. Considering the tone it's spent time establishing, this feels entirely out of place. One scene has Bailey dig up a dead cat, which is a wonderful idea for a piece of black comedy. Unfortunately, it's a moment that feels taken from an entirely different film.

Outside of this, it rushes through the other lives, with many uses of montages in place of actual development. Perhaps if the focus was more limited to the Ethan parts, the result could've been something stronger. Yet it feels as though there's little reason to care for this story. It's as though the lead being a dog is more than enough reason.

A Dog's Purpose is best likened to arriving home, and finding your dog has pooed on your bed. The cuteness makes you want to forgive them, but the result is too much of a mess to do so. It feels like a Nicholas Sparks film, seen through the eyes of a dog.