From Lasse Hallström, the artful sentimentalist, comes “A Dog’s Purpose” based on the popular book by W. Bruce Cameron. The film is colorful and heartfelt with great feeling for the pawed ones among us. Unfortunately, the story unfolds like a Hallmark card. The melodrama is contrived with the older men in the story lurking and lurching around little more than bare sketches of real people.
Most everyone agrees that dogs have a special place in the human heart. Each dog is unique to us, as we in turn are unique in their eyes. A bond is formed and shared. This is a very true and magical reality.
Why then, does this film unspool in such a syrupy tone with no real variety or spontaniety in the relationship between the dog and the person?
This is a missed opportunity.
Bailey, a sensitive Golden (the voice of Josh Gad) is found in a hot truck by young Ethan (Bryce Gheisar). Ethan’s dad (Luke Kirby) reluctantly agrees to take the dog. Dad is a harried travelling salesman and Bailey makes a huge mess of dad’s work papers. Things intensify when Bailey swallows a rare coin and Ethan tries to have Bailey poop it out. He does. Later, in trying to put the coin back, Ethan excites the furry family member, causing a guest to fall in a casserole, which in turn causes everyone to fall in horror.
Dad fumes and banishes Bailey to the garage.
Later on, Ethan teaches Bailey to catch a football while vaulting over him. And there is Todd (Logan Miller) a blonde bully who sets the house aflame. But fear not. Bailey runs into action and saves the day. Dad becomes a mean alcoholic with Bailey acting as a guardian. An older Ethan falls in love with Hannah (Britt Robertson) and the three are a trio.
One day Bailey is tired and won’t eat and that’s when the melodrama gets thick with life after life passing for Bailey, reincarnated in the forms of numerous different dogs.
There is Carlos (John Ortiz) a Chicago cop who mostly sleeps staring into space and says very little. What unfolds is masochistic for dog lovers.
All the while, Bailey just wants to find Ethan once more.
Dennis Quaid plays the 60-ish Ethan but one is shocked. All of his boyish charm has gone. He has been scorched by regret. Actor Peggy Lipton as Hannah comes on the scene as well, surprised to find that he is the owner of a different but familiar Boss Dog.
The scenes of Bailey in different forms are affectionate, stirring and cute. But the humans portray minimal charm.
The events play like a sitcom with Bailey at the center of a maudlin passion play of violence struggle or neglect.
Dogs are such suprising creatures and they deserve more than such a sugary treatment as this, stuck in the mode of “Lassie” or “Rin Tin Tin”.
Only the most die hard dog fans will find enlightenment. There is more meaningful drama found in TV’s “Dog Whisperer with Cesar Millan”. Despite good intent and some canine aura, “A Dog’s Purpose” hardly makes a statement.
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