A Dog's Purpose: Partly endearing, Partly predictable
Cast : Dennis Quaid, Britt Robertson, Josh Gad, KJApa, Juliet Rylance, John Ortiz, Peggy Lipton
Director : Lasse Hallstrom
As is the case with all films revolving around domesticated animals, especially dogs, one must be ready for heavy doses of sentimentality. To be entirely fair to the makers of such stories though, they cannot be taken to task for it. Hallstrom’s film is indeed endearing in parts, and Josh Gad’s effort at voicing each of the four dogs portrayed in the narrative is quite commendable.
This story of reincarnation begins with Bailey, a Golden Retriever puppy who escapes the shelter that houses him, only to be kidnapped by two men looking to make a quick buck. Seeing the dog severely dehydrated in a broken down pick-up, a suburban family rescues him. Bailey gets attached to Ethan, the only son of the household, very quickly, hanging on to the boy’s every word and gesture. As the months roll by, Bailey keeps questioning the meaning of life, and is perceptive to his family’s sadness. Ethan grows up and flies the nest, even as Bailey’s existential questions remain.
Reincarnated now as a female German Shepherd K-9, Ellie, the dog continues the search for meaning, while trying to understand his new Policeman master. In the narrative’s third arc, the dog is now in the body of a Corgi named Tino. His owner this time, Maya, is a shy, bookish college student who adores Tino, but stuffs him with too much junk food for his own good. In his final reincarnation, he is a Saint Bernard called Buddy, who gets severely neglected by an impoverished couple living in a trailer.
The first half of A Dog’s Purpose contains enough moments to touch your heart, and make you sigh a little. It is the second half, however, that it fails to deliver. The narrative’s strength falls away with the subsequent set of stories, which are either not completely explored or are downright cliché. What starts off with an hour of entertaining and endearing viewing becomes ever so predictable as the film bounds to its climax. It isn’t easy to make a film about dogs without falling prey to the pitfalls of a happy ending. So, I empathise with the effort. It would have perhaps made more sense for the writers to have stuck to one storyline, and run with it. If you have pets at home, you’re going to forgive the film for trying its best to draw out those handkerchiefs.