Outside of the controversy, it’s not a terrible film, but it’s as cheesy as you’d imagined.
Disclaimer: Before I go ahead with this review, I’ll address the elephant in the room: yes, I know of the allegations of animal abuse this film has been embedded in. No, I do not support animal abuse in any way. Yes, it is my job to screen films, exclusive of the controversy surrounding them. Yes, I understand the optics of going to such a film and screening it. However, this is what I do in this position, and if you’re offended, that’s okay. If you don’t want to know more about this film, you’re more than welcome to take a pass on my review. Otherwise, if you want to know how the movie performed by my standards, I invite you to read on.
A Dog’s Purpose is the story of reincarnated canine companion, Bailey (voiced by Josh Gad) and the multiple lives he leads. One of his more impressionable experiences includes his relationship with a boy, Ethan (Bryce Geishar, KJ Apa, Dennis Quaid), over the years. In between his time with Ethan, he returns to the world as other dogs, including a police K-9 and a corgi.
If you see this movie, then prepare for a cheesefest of epic proportions. The first thing I thought of – probably about fifteen minutes or so in – was Look Who’s Talking with John Travolta and Kirstie Alley. You know, that film with the talking baby. (It got even weirder in the third movie in the series with Look Who’s Talking Now, which is actually not a far cry from A Dog’s Purpose.)
What I was really irritated by with this film was this kind of “two steps forward, eight steps back” deal with this film. Something in a scene would be fine – the joke the dog tells while narrating, for instance – and then the writers would ruin it all with some human’s cheesy dialogue. This is a definitely a film about the dogs that has the dogs performing far better than many of the humans did.
The only character I really remotely felt any sympathy for was Ethan. While his story was simple, I like that his character was relatable. People have pets; in a perfect world, people will bond with their pets (and not neglect them), and we eventually lose them. As someone who has recently become a roommate with a dog owner, I’d forgotten how fun it is to come home to a pal that’s excited to see you, doesn’t care about what you were doing – this film, and my new four-legged roommate have been a great reminder of that.
This film isn’t without its flaws: when you reset each time with the dog it jolts you out of the film, and is quite a distraction. (This is a problem the film Vantage Point – which funny enough, also starred Dennis Quaid – had too.)
Overall A Dog’s Purpose isn’t the worst film I’ve ever seen, but it isn’t the best either. The pups steal the show, but the story line and the humans need a solid writer to throw ’em a bone. I’m giving it a 2.5 paws up out of five.