Movie Review: A Dog's Purpose

John Thomas
DENNIS QUAID in 'A Dog's Purpose.'

Bring tear-tissues when you come to see this movie. Perhaps not a full box of Kleenex, but at least a travel-sized pack because you’ll be using them long before the closing scenes. Tissues are needed to mop up tears of joy from the happy scenes and those tears flowing from sadness.
In this two-hour-long film, Lasse Hallström (director) tells the story of the spirit of a dog through his interactions with various humans, his responses to his varied environments and his thoughts on life in general – specifically, what is my purpose in life? Sounds like a lot to do for a dog in one lifetime; but the film isn’t about one dog but about a dog’s spirit.
The first appearance of this spirit is in the form of a big cozy dog named “Bailey.” The pleasing voice of Josh Gad (narrator) speaks Bailey’s thoughts as he ages along with his adoptee, a young boy named Ethan (KJ Apa).
Then the spirit reappears in a new life with a new purpose, this time as a K9 dog with the Chicago Police Department. That life was strenuous; the next purpose was far more relaxing – yet also purposeful. The story moves along with more “insights” into the thoughts of more dogs and prompting more tissues.
This film comes at an opportune time as numerous European countries and the United States are all conducting and publishing research into how (and if) dogs communicate with humans. Do they understand languages and do they have feelings? It is quite a contrast to China, the country known for preparing them to serve in restaurants.
Past research has shown that dogs choose to consociate with humans; we did not bring them into our lives, they adopted us. In contrast, other household pets, the often aloof cat, would kill us if they were larger!
Quite an ambitious project for a director, the dogs are the stars of the movie and “mere” humans are their co-stars. Adult Ethan (Dennis Quaid) and adult Hannah (Peggy Upton) were among the human co-stars who bring that people touch to the story.
A challenging story is no stranger to Lasse Hallström. Over time he has brought many original, innovative stories to the screen from: “What’s Eating Gilbert Grape” in 1993 to “Salmon Fishing in Yemen” in 2011. Now he has brought us a moving tale of a dog’s thoughts from “Bailey” to “Buddy,” both boss-dogs.



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