By Mark Saldana
Rating: 3 (Out of 4 Stars)
The controversy surrounding this movie does raise questions about both the ethical treatment of animals on movie sets and the sensationalism that often comes with scandalous stories broken by notorious tabloid journalism. However, I am not here to address either issue within the controversy. Though I do not condone animal abuse in any way, nor do I support sensationalist journalism, I am a film critic simply wanting to discuss the merits and flaws of the movie itself. Based on the best-selling novel, A Dog’s Purpose, the film, actually makes for amusing and heartfelt family entertainment. The film does have its contrivances and sappiness, but it does make for an enjoyable time for families to spend at either the cinema or at home.
Bailey (Josh Gad) is a dog who finds himself reincarnated multiple times for a purpose that often bewilders him. Though some lives are better and more interesting than others, Bailey fondly recalls most of his owners that treat him well, and in return, Bailey willingly risks life and limb to protect them. When times are joyous, Bailey and his owners bask in these wonderful moments. When times are bad, Bailey does whatever he can to help lift the spirits of his loved ones. As the dog acquires a wealth of life experiences, he begins to view his purpose in life with greater clarity.
With a screenplay by W. Bruce Cameron, Catherine Michon, Audrey Wells, Maya Forbes, and Wally Wolodarsky (based on Cameron’s novel), director Lasse Hallström may not have another masterpiece on his hands like previous films My Life As A Dog, What’s Eating Gilbert Grape? or The Cider House Rules, but A Dog’s Purpose is about as reliably entertaining and joyful as a loyal pet dog. Cameron’s story puts an imaginative spin on the wonderful qualities of canine companions and puts often hilarious spins on their amusing traits and idiosyncrasies. The movie contains both moments of genuine drama and melodrama. It has scenes that are both poignant and mawkish. Despite the film’s issues, I still enjoyed the movie overall.
The film has a great cast that includes Dennis Quaid, Peggy Lipton, K.J. Apa, Bryce Geisar, Juliet Rylance, Luke Kirby, Britt Robertson, Logan Miller, Kirby Howell-Baptiste, and John Ortiz. The real star of the show, of course, is Josh Gad who does a truly joyous and hilarious job as the inner-voice of Bailey. Gad brings a sweet, lovable innocence to Bailey and superbly conveys the appropriate emotions of his dog character. The delivery of his lines trigger all of the appropriate emotions during the comedic, dramatic and poignant scenes.
Though the movie does have its times where it tries too hard to push those emotional triggers, the affective ones outnumber the failed attempts. I wouldn’t strongly recommend spending money on full-priced tickets to see this movie, but it is good enough for matinee prices. Dog lovers are sure to enjoy this canine love fest and the material should be appropriate for children at least five and up. Regardless of where families choose to watch this movie, it should make for a lovely time of bonding.