A Dog’s Purpose: Film Review 

I love dogs and that usually translates to a love for dog movies, but also a sense of sadness when an onscreen dog dies, which is why I struggled with A Dog’s Purpose. It’s trying to be a sweet, sentimental film about a dog’s connection and loyalty to its owners but there’s a lot of dog death to deal with and I’m not sure kids will enjoy that. I certainly didn’t.

A Dog’s Purpose basically tells the story of how a dog learns his purpose in life through his various incarnations, as once the dog dies, it is reincarnated as a different breed but still with the same thoughts (voiced by Josh Gad). The central story is about a boy named Ethan (KJ Apa) and his close bond with Bailey throughout big life moments such as getting a girlfriend (Britt Robertson) and going off to college. There’s also the police dog Ellie and another who is brought by a college student Maya and looked after while she marries and has children.

It is a nice film and certainly pleasant to watch because you can’t help feeling all warm and fuzzy inside when the puppies are doing adorable things. But then they get old and/or ill and feel lost or abandoned and I just can’t deal with that. The very nature of the reincarnation storyline means we have to witness multiple dog deaths and frankly one is more than enough.

I also don’t know how much kids will enjoy it considering I teared up several times. It is quite brutal and at times seemed like it was trying too hard to be emotional as too many bad things happen. In the central story, the boy’s father is an alcoholic, his house is set on fire, among other things, and you’re just ‘oh come on, give him a break!’ Obviously some of the other stories are happier than this but most still end in death.

There are some redeeming qualities. Some of the stories were heartwarming and uplifting, especially Maya’s, Gad’s narration is energetic and fun and injects humour into proceedings (though it is a bit weird hearing a dog be voiced by Frozen’s Olaf), it was funny seeing human life events from a dog perspective, and the ending with a grown-up Ethan (now Dennis Quaid) is a bittersweet full circle moment though overly sentimental and cheesy as hell.

In cinemas now 

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