A Dog’s Purpose

Dennis Quaid in A Dog's Purpose. (AP)
Dennis Quaid in A Dog's Purpose. (AP)


2/5 Stars


The soulful and surprising story of one devoted dog who finds the meaning of his own existence through the lives of the humans he teaches to laugh and love.


Cinema has a long history with man’s best friend, from classics like Homeward Bound, Beethoven and Hachi to less classic ones like Air Bud, Snow Dogs and Beverly Hills Chihuahua. Even in films where the dog isn’t the main character, they normally end up being the audience favourite and have the most devastating on-screen deaths (looking at you I Am Legend).

A Dog’s Purpose attempts to tap into that almost universal love for our canine companions and explore why they are so important to us, but instead just makes the audience watch a lot of dogs die without a meaningful connection with the audience. 

This movie follows the many lives of a dog (Josh Gad) that is reincarnated over multiple decades. His most important life is that as Bailey the golden retriever, who falls deeply in love with a young boy called Ethan and never quite forgets him in his other lives.

Based on a bestselling novel where many liberties were taken with the original story, A Dog’s Purpose tried to be a Marley and Me but ended up as another forgettable dog film without the sports or war on cats. I also feel Gad might not have been the best choice to voice the ever questioning licking hero. He wasn’t very believing as a dog, and his musings on the universe and his purpose sounded hollow and insincere. Bradley Cooper was originally coined to voice the lead, and it might have given the film more gravitas. Gad should rather stick to animated snowmen. 

The rest of the cast was okay, but no one really gave a stellar performance. The best timeline out of them all was the corgi in the 80s, with newcomer Kirby Howell-Baptiste who plays a lonely student with no friends. I think I would have enjoyed it more just watching their adorableness together instead of the drawn out Ethan-saga that is as boring and predictable as most of Dennis Quaid’s movies. Director Lasse Hallström (What’s Eating Gilbert Grape, Chocolat, The Cider House Rules) didn’t really show his passion for the project either, and this coming from the guy who made the world cry with Hachi’s true story. 
A Dog’s Purpose is made for the dog lovers, but you will feel a bit cheated with the cheap emotional tactics. The story itself is not great barring the 80s loveliness and if you’ve never had a four-legged family member you probably won’t be watching this film in the first place. Regardless of the boycotting calls over the animal cruelty allegations, A Dog’s Purpose doesn’t really serve any purpose in the canine cinema genre.


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