‘A Dog’s Purpose’: Sweet, fluffy, cute, but paradoxical
By Kaely Monahan
As far as feel-good movies go, A Dog’s Purpose will give some warm-fuzzies. The film revisits the what dog’s purpose is through several doggie reincarnations, starting with a stray puppy who is killed by the pound. Not exactly how one would think a film filled with cute dogs would start off. Not to mention, it’s unnecessary and is a lackluster beginning.
The story really begins when the dog, voiced by Josh Gad, is reincarnated into a golden retriever and is adopted by a boy and his family. Christened Bailey, or as he interprets it, “Bailey-Bailey-Bailey-Bailey,” we watch him grow up with his human and learn what it means to be a boy’s best friend.
But old age strikes and Bailey dies and is born again as a female German Shepherd whose human partner is perpetually sad. The cycle repeats with him reincarnating as a corgi who is a lonely black woman’s best friend and then finally as a neglected mutt who finds his way back to his original owner’s farm.
On the surface, this film is cute and sweet and plucks at your heart strings. However, it leaves more questions than answers. If dogs can reincarnate, does this mean they have innumerable lives? How do we know who is their first owner? How do they know who their first owner is? Is there a limit to doggie lives they can have? Perhaps we’re taking this too seriously, but it does beg the question—why does Bailey’s boy matter more than the lonely cop? Or the single woman? Are not their stories just as important?
The film wouldn’t have you think so as the majority of the film is spent on the front end with Bailey and the boy, and then it rushes to get through the other reincarnations. The pacing is so off that it’s hard to become fully invested in the film. Even this critic, who is prone to copious tears in animal movies, only cried a little and only once. I fully expected massive waterworks for this film.
Based off a book by the same name, A Dog’s Purpose had at its helm Swedish director Lasse Hallström. Apparently, he’s no stranger to working with animals as he’s directed My Life As a Dog and Hachi: A Dog’s Tale. Under Hallström’s guidance, this film proves to be cute and funny, despite the pacing issues. There’s plenty of adorable dog shenanigans to keep you smiling.
Josh Gad, beloved from Broadway to Disney, brings his irrepressible enthusiasm to his voice-over part. His performance will win you over and carry you through the story. He almost convinces you to ignore the plot holes. Almost.
Ultimately, A Dog’s Purpose is a lesson for humans rather than dogs. It reminds us to live in the now and be there for others, and don’t forget to live life to the fullest.