A sweet but needlessly scattered family film that pulls at your heartstrings like, I dunno, some kind of furry mammal.
⭐ ⭐ ⭐
Never work with children and animals, they say. Well, A Dog’s Purpose has both, following the life, or rather, lives, of a dog as it reincarnates into different breeds and families to love, learn and lick. As a retriever, he leaves his first owner, Ethan (Bryce Gheisar/K.J. Apa), before becoming a police dog, pampered corgi, then an abandoned bernese mountain dog who finally and miraculously makes its way back to Ethan (Dennis Quaid).
All these lives revolve around the owner’s loneliness and troubles, and looking at A Dog’s Purpose as a whole, it reveals itself as being nothing more than a collection of effective but mostly unconnected short films. This structure is the movie’s biggest weakness, causing the entire premise to be a quick and shallow look at family life from the perspective of a stupid, hairy person.
Whether it’s handsome jocks, dorky students, petulant bullies, stoic cops and drunk fathers, every character is completely one note, made even worse by the film’s intention of passing on a life lesson which ends up being pathetically hollow.
Don’t get me wrong, A Dog’s Purpose is dripping with schmaltz, in all the good ways, and even though there isn’t much substance to these characters, their personalities and lives are distinct and instantly relatable, if only due to its reliance of clichés and even repeated catch phrases. Excluding its last reincarnation which is appropriately bleak, every life this dog has is full of heartfelt moments. You just need to accept that it gets taken everywhere like football matches, schools and restaurants as if every owner is a traumatized blind person.
Unsurprisingly, the dog steals the show, and not just because of Josh Gad’s soft and innocently playful voice. The most praise for A Dog’s Purpose must go to the dog trainers, who give each furry performer clear and purposeful direction and motive to all its actions. No movement is wasted, with an early shot of the dog chasing a cat being especially impressive.
A Dog’s Purpose is certainly not a bad film for someone looking for something wholesome. In fact, I distinctly remember hearing strong, sharp sniffs during the credits as several members of the audience sucked up their slimy snot of sadness. I, myself, had watery eyes multiple times. It definitely ticks all the boxes and functions fine as a sweet family film, but with such a simple plot, only younger viewers will leave feeling totally fulfilled. On the plus side, the director’s first name looks like “Lassie”. That’s funny.
A Dog’s Purpose is available in Australian cinemas from May 4 2017
Image courtesy of EntertainmentOne Films