“A Dog’s Purpose” is directed by Lasse Hallström and stars Josh Gad, Dennis Quaid, K.J. Apa and Britt Robertson. The movie is about, well, a dog who tries to find his purpose in life as he moves from dog to dog, learning something new at each step along the way.
This was a film that looked a bit cheesy from its trailers, but something that could have potential. However, all desire to see this movie ended once leaked behind the scenes footage was released showing a German Shepard forced into running water, and then nearly drowning in the process. This was a horrific video that caused PETA to start a boycott of this film and caused me to be against this movie coming in.
For a film strictly about dogs, there are going to be entertaining moments involving a dog playing or enjoying life, and, sure enough, there’s a lot of that here. Scenes that focus on the bond between a human and a dog in a loving, upbeat way are certainly the highlights, with moments like these bringing a smile to my face every time. Watching a dog chase his tail or give his owner the big puppy dog eyes is always effective, and much of the joy from this film can be found within those moments.
I enjoyed most of the opening third of this film, where our lead dog is in his first life. This section of the film has the most depth and the most to it, and I found myself enjoying a lot of what I was seeing. There were moments of pure happiness, a couple of powerful scenes of emotion, and it really allowed the film to start off on the right foot.
The performances were pretty solid by everyone, though all a bit one dimensional. K.J. Apa as the teenage Ethan was my favorite performance, as he had the most emotional depth of anyone in the film. Britt Roberson was good and gave the best performance I have yet to see from her, as was Dennis Quaid, and while I could have hoped for more intensity or intrigue within these performances, the actors do a fine job with what they’re given.
There are many times where this movie just goes too over the top with its storyline, as if to say its’ protagonist pup has superhero-like abilities. The idea that a dog’s mind gets passed down after death is fine, but there are quite a few scenes where the lead dog just does not act in the same way as a dog would in real life, and that takes away a lot of the fun from the film. I want to see a potential viewpoint that can be put into all dogs, not just this made up one, and when the movie goes for the fantasy element, it hurts the entire premise.
Not only is the dog a bit over the top, many moments with the humans go too far over the top to where they just feel oversentimental, or downright silly. Much of the attempted emotion comes in a rip-off “Marley and Me” effort, and, for me, they were predictable and didn’t hit me all that hard. Besides that, there are some major plot elements that felt extremely coincidental or just plain dumb, and they each took me out of the movie more and more.
Hard to pin down why, but Josh Gad as the voice of the lead dog just got on my nerves. Gad, who hasn’t really impressed at all since “Frozen” just has this annoying voice that I did not like whenever I hear it, and whether it’s the on the nose script or Gad’s whiny voice, I just hated whenever the dog started to narrate.
There are some small issues with the pacing, as scenes drag on for way too long, as well as many moments that feel totally rushed and out of place. The two-hour runtime feels long, so there must have been things that could have been cut out, specifically the entire scene that caused so much controversy before the film’s release.
“A Dog’s Purpose”, aside from the controversy, is a pretty harmless time at the theaters. Sure, there are problems with its pace and with its cheesy attempts at emotion, and the fact that Josh Gad is the main voice, but the film has a lot of moments that brought joy to me as well as occasional sentimentality. This is as average a film as they come, and if you intend to skip it because of that horrid behind the scenes video, you aren’t missing out on all that much. “A Dog’s Purpose” has enjoyment for dog lovers, but never hits its marks as hard as it wants to.
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