I’ve loved dogs my entire life, in all their joyful happiness, the way they lick your face and the way they love you unconditionally. When I watched the trailer for this movie, I knew the film was going to make me laugh and cry. Every good dog movie does. This movie did just that, giving me exactly what I wanted with a heartwarming ending.
A Dog’s Purpose stars the voice of Josh Gad as the dog with the unusual twist that the dog has many lives, coming back to earth after each death. When he begins his first life, after getting some food, of course, his first thought is what is the meaning of life? At first, he just plays but he still questions if that’s too simple an answer. And then he’s caught by the dog catcher. Unfortunately, that’s the end of this life but he is reborn into his next, again trying to figure out what his purpose in life is.
The next time around, the dog is brought back as a retriever on a puppy mill. He escapes but is picked up by a couple guys who want to sell him for money. Leaving him locked in their truck with no water and no air, his fate should have been worse but he’s saved by a young boy, Ethan (Bryce Gheisar) and his mother (Juliet Rylance) at the last second. They bring him home and name him Bailey.
From this point on, Bailey lives a happy life, learning tricks from his Ethan and getting into trouble with Ethan’s father. They visit Ethan’s grandparent’s farm where Ethan teaches Bailey how to do a few tricks. During this time, we discover that Ethan’s father is unhappy and drinks. Once Ethan is in high school, played by K.J. Apa, his parents separate because of his father’s anger and drinking issues. Ethan plays high school football, finds a girl and gets a college to give him a full ride. Then just after his victory, Ethan gets into an altercation with another boy at the school, who taunts Ethan about his drunk father. Ethan hits the boy, Todd (Logan Miller) and believes that’s the end of it. Unfortunately, Todd visits their house in the middle of the night, pulls a prank with a firecracker and the house ends up on fire. Bailey saves the day, waking Ethan but Ethan’s leg is damaged in the escape. Ethan breaks up with his girlfriend. He goes to agricultural college instead of living his dream and Bailey dies of old age.
The dog’s next life is as a female police dog called Ellie. This time, her owner is a cop, Carlos (John Ortiz), separated from his wife and lonely. Ellie attempts to make him happier, to allow her to sleep with him so he won’t feel so alone. She wins his heart in the end but the pair head out on a rescue of a young girl. Ellie does her job, saves the girl and her human. But once again, the dog leaves.
In his last life, Buddy is reunited with Ethan Montgomery (Dennis Quaid). While predictable, the movie has a happy ending and I am a sucker for a happy ending. I think this one brought the story around full circle. So despite knowing what was going to happen, I was left with a heartwarming, sweet ending. At the beginning, the dog asks its purpose and at the end, we are told what Buddy thinks. Be happy. Save someone if you can. Most of all, be here now. Truly, that is a dog’s purpose: to be here, to love their human. What more can we ask from a movie about dogs?
Each life is different from the last. I loved the premise of this, as it gave the filmmaker’s the opportunity to explore and touch on some of the ways animals are mistreated. I like that the writer’s don’t flinch from that, that dogs (as well as all animals) are mistreated and neglected. Without the sad, we can’t appreciate the happy moments. The honesty of this movie is one of the elements that makes it a good film.
The dog has the best lines. His dialogue is what makes the movie funny and heart wrenching. It’s hilarious when he talks about the horse-dog which as it turns out is a donkey. When he is Tino living with his owner, Maya (Kirby Howell-Baptiste), he falls in love with another dog Roxie. His conversations as he chases after her are one of the best parts of the film, especially since he’s a Corgie and she’s a Saint Bernard. All of the acting is good, the people believable and loving their animals. Dennis Quaid is great as a grown up Ethan. But really, all that man has to do is grin and I love him. There is never a missed beat with any of the actors.
This movie is entirely predictable. Unfortunately, from the trailer, you know the ending and this is a shame. Leaving the ending a surprise could have made this a more original movie. The premise is original but you knew every other element of the story before it happened. That doesn’t lessen the emotional impact. I still laughed and cried at both the happy and sad moments.
If you’re a dog lover, I think you will enjoy this. It will tug at your heart and make you cry but you’ll get a happy ending. I think children will learn how to treat their furry companion’s right. This is just the movie I wanted from the trailer and I was happy with how it turned out. It may have been predictable, but it was a loving tribute to our canine friends.
Rating: 3.5 stars
Based on the beloved bestselling novel by W. Bruce Cameron, A Dog’s Purpose, from director Lasse Hallström (The Cider House Rules, Dear John, The 100-Foot Journey), shares the soulful and surprising story of one devoted dog (voiced by Josh Gad) who finds the meaning of his own existence through the lives of the humans he teaches to laugh and love.
Cast: Dennis Quaid, Peggy Lipton, Britt Robertson, K.J. Apa, Juilet Rylance, Luke Kirby, John Ortiz, Pooch Hall and Josh Gad
Directed by: Lasse Hallström
Screenplay by: W. Bruce Cameron & Cathryn Michon and Audrey Wells and Maya Forbes & Wally Wolodarsky
Based on the Book by: W. Bruce Cameron