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A Dog’s Purpose

A Dog’s Purpose: Sugary, Over-Sentimental Dog Fest

  • Dennis QuaidJosh Gad...
  • ComedyDrama
  • Lasse Hallstrom
reviewed by
Marija Djurovic
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A Dog’s Purpose: Sugary, Over-Sentimental Dog Fest

Following a whole stream of controversy involving leaked behind-the-scenes footage showing a distressed dog being forcibly submerged into a turbulent pool of water, A Dog’s Purpose, is as sugary, moving and even awkward as they come.

Adapted from a bestselling novel by W. Bruce Cameron, the movie begins in the 1960’s with a Golden Retriever pup named Bailey (voiced by Gad throughout the course of the movie) who gets rescued and adopted by a boy named Ethan (Gheisar) and his mom (Rylance). The two are very quick to form a bond, spending their days playing catch – mostly with a deflated football – and with Bailey doing springboards off Ethan’s back.  Even when Ethan grows into a young teenager (now played by K.J Apa), the two still manage to find some time for one another. Unfortunately, it all comes to an end when Ethan eventually goes off to college and becomes a football star, leaving behind his now aging buddy who is slowly reaching the end of his life.


However, Bailey’s time on Earth is not quite finished and he soon begins his journey of returning as a variety of dogs throughout the decades. First as a German Shepherd female named Ellie who saves lives working as a police dog, then a playful Corgi who helped her owner find love before eventually returning as Buddy, a scruffy mongrel who manages to somehow escape from his chained-up confinement before eventually finding his way back into the loving arms of the one human he has been searching for.

Directed by acclaimed Swedish filmmaker, Lasse Hallstrom – see Hachi: A Dog’s Tale – the plot is pretty comprehensive, but there’s nothing here that the producers haven’t showed you in the movie’s trailers already.  Penned by what appears to be an army of screenwriters, A Dog’s Purpose is a cutesy dog-reincarnation tale that has its moments and is perfectly tune when it comes to pulling heartstrings throughout.


However, although effective in parts – Denis Quaid manages to sell his fifteen minutes on screen pretty well – there’s also a sense of fragility and tonal inconsistency in the script, which tends to lean towards emotional manipulation over genuine connection and emotive responsiveness to the story told. The melodramatic tendencies, involving a few disturbing and awkwardly inserted subplots, are its biggest flaws with the heavy-handed and often predictable plot being the other. 

Lacking the emotional depth of Hachi and the organic fluidity of Marley and Me, this canine-loving cinematic fest, although definitely cute and irresistible in nature, never really finds its purpose or the courage to answer any of the big questions it poses throughout.

Like This? Try

Hachi: A Dog’s Tale (2009), Marley and Me (2008), Year of the Dog (2007),           

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Apparently, the animal-abuse accusations were discredited in the end, with the producers stating that the video doesn’t really show the entire story. Some, though, are still finding that hard to believe.

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