A Dog’s Purpose
A curious dog ponders the meaning of life as it keeps getting reincarnated.
Ever wondered what a dog’s purpose in life is? Possibly not, but you’ve no doubt had fleeting thoughts about why exactly you’re here and if you’re destined to do anything great during your time on earth.
So with that in mind, it’s fairly easy to slip into the headspace of our lead, four legged character.
We first meet our protagonist (voiced by Frozen favourite Josh Gad) as a cute pup, who unfortunately doesn’t last more than two minutes on screen as he’s whisked away from the dog pound and euthanised. Yup - a doggy death in the opening 90 seconds of the film!
But as this is a movie about a dog being reincarnated, it’s a given that they’ll be a lot of pooch deaths - so prepare yourself people and get the tissues ready.
After a kaleidoscope of colours fills the screen - director Lasse Hallström’s way of telling us our pup is moving into a new body - we meet Golden Retriever Bailey in 1961, the main focus of the film.
Life doesn’t start well for Bailey, but the little cutie is saved from certain death when eight-year-old Ethan (Bryce Gheisar) and his mum (Juliet Rylance) smash a car window to rescue him from overheating.
After a little resistance from Ethan’s dad (Luke Kirby), Bailey is allowed to stay, and soon becomes a central part of Ethan’s life.
They grow up side-by-side, with Ethan morphing into a teenager (KJ Apa) and finding his first love in Hannah (Britt Robertson), missing out on a football scholarship and starting agricultural school.
By his side the whole time is his best friend Bailey, and the dog enjoys a nearly idyllic life, before succumbing to old age. Remember those tissues we mentioned before, now would be a good time to reach for them.
The kaleidoscope of colours returns to the screen and we next see reincarnated Bailey as female Ellie, a German Shepherd K-9 police dog in the late ‘70s.
While Ellie can still remember her previous life, she soon gets stuck into her new existence, as she lives with her police partner Carlos, a lonely widow who, at first seems prickly, but soon softens to his canine companion.
As a police dog Ellie is brave, but after facing one too many dangerous situations… Well, the kaleidoscope comes back.
Next we’re in the ‘80s with Pembroke Welsh Corgi named Tino, who’s adopted by college student Maya.
Like Bailey and Ethan became best pals, so do Tino and Maya, and the cute corgi is there from her first love all the way through till marriage and children.
After a happy life, the kaleidoscope is back for one final time and we meet our last incantation; Bernese Mountain Dog Waffles who is taken in by a neglectful couple who eventually abandon our furry friend.
Surely this can’t be the end of our doggy journey? Well no, there’s one final twist involving adult Ethan (Dennis Quaid) and Hannah (Peggy Lipton), and just maybe a happily ever after.
Prior to hitting cinemas in the U.K., a video emerged of real life dog Hercules, who played Ellie, visibly resisting being dragged into rushing water.
Animal rights charity PETA called for a boycott on the film and The American Humane Association suspended its on-set representative over the incident.
The footage, obtained by TMZ, is harrowing enough, but after watching the film is all the more upsetting, though it should be noted that independent investigators concluded no animals were harmed on the set.
Controversy aside, A Dog’s Purpose is a sweet tale which pulls at the heartstrings just hard enough to make you well up, but not bawl your eyes out the whole way through.
The human actors all do well in their roles, especially the disbelieving Quaid.
The pace is a little off though, with too much time focused on some scenarios, and not enough on others. And it felt longer than its 100-minute runtime.
Ultimately this is a film made for dog lovers, though even cat people will be moved by Bailey and his wide-eyed innocence and profound life lessons.
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