Pets! They are cute. They keep us company. And for most people, they are the means by which we come to the crushing realisation that we are mortal and will one day die. In film they are similarly important; we route for them to survive through alien attacks or natural disaster and if they are killed or die it is both incredibly sad and signals to the audience that the person that killed the pet is a garbage monster of global proportions. A Dog’s Purpose is the latest in a long line in films about pets, its purpose, well that is something that I will get to in this review, so let’s crack on, shall we?
Bailey is a dog; he is Ethan’s dog. As he and Ethan grow up together they have triumphs and tragedies until the ultimate tragedy befalls Baley and he passes away. Though maybe he doesn’t as he is reincarnated again and again to work out what his purpose on earth is.
I will say that the canine actors do a good job in the film and I applaud the patience and training that must have gone into each scene with a dog as the main character because we all know that famous adage. The same cannot be said for the human actors who all look like they are there for a paycheck, delivering slightly stilted dialogue painfully blandly. The worst offender is Dennis Quaid as the older Ethan, who is so unmemorable in the movie that I forgot he was in it until I looked it up to write this review.
Despite this, for a time while I was watching A Dog’s Purpose, I found myself enjoying it. It sounds weird, but I found myself smiling at the cute antics of a cute dog in small town America with that warm tint to the frame, and for a while as we followed Bailey and Ethan all was going well. Then Bailey died and then he died again. This isn’t a spoiler, it’s in the trailer; each time Bailey died I did well up, and then I realised, that it was very similar to another film about a dog that famously dies at the end. Then I got thinking about how that film was accused of emotional manipulation; I realised that A Dogs Purpose didn’t just have one dying, it had three, so it had the same emotional manipulation, but tripled. It was after this realisation that A Dogs Purpose’s purpose came clear and the film lost me.
What makes this worse is Josh Gad as the voice of Bailey whose saccharine stupidity almost had me tearing my hair out. His strangely pubescent voice here is the wrong combination of bored and naïve; the small chuckles that this film coaxed from me at the beginning as Bailey misinterprets human situations began to grate after the third or so, and by the contrived end it is physically painful.
A Dogs Purpose is a violently feel good film; it will worm its way into your heart and play merry hell with your heart strings. However, for all its obvious emotional earnestness, A Dogs Purpose feels cynical. It knows what it is doing and why. It’s story is cliché ridden, with plot points you can see coming a mile off, yet is so lazily thrown together you almost get whiplash at how thick and fast these contrivances are thrown at you. Despite this and its faux naiveté and philosophical ponderings, A Dogs Purpose is a surface level average film that will disappear into bargain bins and Channel 5 afternoon film rotations after it leaves theatres sooner than it had hoped.
You can watch A Dog’s Purpose in Cinemas Now