A Dog's Purpose: Film Review
Cast: Dennis Quaid, A golden retriever puppy, KJ Apa, Britt Robertson, Peggy Lipton
Director: Lasse Halstrom
Mixing sappy family film and a fluffy dog tail should be movie kryptonite, but A Dog's Purpose feels like it slightly misses the mark.
Adapted from the 2010 W. Bruce Cameron novel of the same name, the Amblin Entertainment flick follows the story of a dog that's reincarnated several times, before discovering what his reason for life is.
Starting in the 1950s, Josh Gad is the voice of the dog in this live-action fare that feels like a Saturday morning TV-movie writ large.
After a very brief and shockingly terminated life, Gad's dog is reborn as a golden retriever named Bailey who's saved from a hot car in 1961 by Ethan. As the pair bond, Bailey discovers Ethan is his soul-mate and the pair get into the sort of scrapes you'd expect from a fluffy story of its ilk.
From romancing a girl (played by Britt Robertson) to dealing with an abusive father, the 1960s set story is perhaps the more successful of the film, but also the one which showcases the most of what to expect of this film.
Tugging on heart-strings, touching on well-worn tropes of animal films and the familiar scrapes the plucky pair find themselves in, the Nicholas Sparks for animal lovers flick, A Dog's Purpose is likely to find favour with audiences looking to get their quota of sappiness filled.
And while Lasse Halstrom's film may have been dogged with some negative pre-publicity over the apparent treatment of its animal leads in one sequence that's since been debunked, it's more than likely to curry a great deal of favour with anyone who's ever owned a pet or shared a bond with said animal.
This is not a film that skirts over the heartache and heartbreak of losing a pet, and it's here the film takes great strides to really avoid milking the sentiment and hitting some of the emotional moments more successfully than many would want to admit to.
The reincarnation angle of the film is handled without fuss, and while its edges could have made for Nicholas Sparks' style tear-jerker territory, it simply gets on with it happening and lets the poignancy of the moment drown the work. But the rest of the film is predominantly every other film you've ever seen of its kind - coming of age mixed with family tension, all nicely brought to life in the world that's been created.
At least one of the dog's lives, the one with a police partner, is over so briefly, its inclusion seems relatively pointless, other than to showcase another relationship with a dog. But such is the film's MO; it simply passes over the middle part of the film to skip back to Ethan and Bailey's bond.
It's here that the heart of this film lies deep within the connection that's shared with a canine; and while Gad's occasionally childish narration distracts, the sentiment is clearly there from the beginning.
A Dog's Purpose is not a movie for critics, nor a movie that goes deeper or tries to do anything other than push a fuzzy, feel-good agenda.
It'll give comfort to many a pet owner who's believed their current furry charge has similarities to their previous ones, but the human elements of the film will remain infinitely more forgettable than the doggy goings on long after the lights of the cinemas have gone up.