Movie Review: Lots of Dogs and Little Purpose

Movie Review: Lots of Dogs and Little Purpose
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Tyler Collins

Tyler Collins

Tyler Collins is a thespian and performer who has worked with theatre, film, and TV across Ontario. He comes from Campbellton, NB, and has lived in North Oakville over 20 years. He is a graduate of Journalism and Performing Arts from Sheridan College. Twitter: @MrTyCollins

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The release of A Dog’s Purpose brings both great excitement and frustration for animal lovers. The film is currently the focus of an investigation for the ethical treatment of animals on movie sets, but as for the movie now playing in theatres, there’s enough adorable puppies to melt anyone’s heart.

Dogs of some kind (a relevant character or otherwise) are placed in almost every scene of the movie. Unfortunately, it seems those superfluous puppies are the only draw; the story, ultimate message, and morals are all so shallow you might as well be watching YouTube videos for an hour and a half. But maybe that’s the whole “purpose” the script keeps mentioning.

The movie is told from the perspective of a dog’s soul (voiced by the earnest Josh Gad) who keeps reincarnating every 15 minutes to the body of another dog again and again. The rest of the movie shows several vignettes, all with different owners and how the dogs each play a part in their lives.

One cohesive story is a plot about a boy who gets a dog in his youth, and then finds the dog in another body as an old man. The story arc is very disjointed, and you have to suddenly meet a whole new set of characters too many times. The reincarnation element of the story also gets old fast.

The only connection you make is quickly deciding if this is nice person or bad guy based on if they like the cute animals or not. This also makes the movie kind of hit or miss for young children, as some scenes includes subtle nods to a dog being shot, an alcoholic father, and a cruel case of animal neglect. They should go over most children’s heads, though it may be too intense for kids under age 7.

Leaked photo from the set of A DOG’S PURPOSE. Credit: TMZ and Winnipeg Sun.

More often than anything , the movie keeps bringing up its “purpose”, and the importance of dogs in their owners’ families. These thesis lines are extremely corny, but aren’t unintelligent or misplaced. The themes feel shallow, and the philosophical ideas (or connections to human life) don’t leave the theatre with you.

So what does the movie have going for it? Dogs, dogs, and dogs. Those adorable canines are relentless, infused into every possible second. There are some enjoyable scenes and funny moments. But this no Old Yeller or Homeward Bound – despite a strong chemistry in the cast, the emotional response is the movie’s only asset.

And what about that controversy in the news? Last week’s report of a dog forced to film a rescue scene in fast waters comes halfway through, and it really isn’t necessary. The director, producer, and cast have all publicly made supportive, critical words in support for the investigation and the movie; this is nothing worth boycotting over.

It’s been six weeks since the last family film was released in theatres, (not counting the insipid and creepy Monster Trucks) though it may be worth waiting a while longer for family night at the movies. A Dog’s Purpose is passable, forgettable, and inoffensive.

If you like dogs, puppies, and have a high tolerance for saccharine movies to the highest degree, you might have a good time. Though if it’s puppies you’re looking for, I’d recommend visiting your local animal shelter. Those dogs probably deserve to be seen more than the ones on screen here.

A Dog’s Purpose
2 out of 4 stars.

PG, 101 minutes. Family.
Directed by Lasse Hallstrom.
Starring Josh Gad, K. J. Apa, Britt Robertson, and Dennis Quaid.
Now Playing at Film.Ca Cinemas and Cineplex Winston Churchill.


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