“A Dog’s Purpose” Movie Review

The latest in dog movies is a bit far fetched

Austin C., Copy Editor

    A Dog’s Purpose, the recent comedy-drama film starring the voice talents of Josh Gad, and based off the 2010 book of the same name, has received much controversy throughout its production. In January of this year, a video was released online of a German Shepherd named Hercules being pulled through water apparently against its will for the film. While this footage was later proved to be visually manipulated by the videos creator in an attempt to make a buck and get media attention, this didn’t stop many animal rights activists such as PETA and The American Humane Association being skeptical of the film and its production. I myself was interested in seeing the film, and here is my review. [Note: I have not read the book, so this review will be based off my thoughts on the plot points of the movie only. Some things I cover here may be better explained in the book.]

   The plot of this film is very Disney-like. While pleasant and heartwarming at times, concerning at others, the film brings to the viewing table a certain level of cheesiness, which, in my opinion, will inevitably come to any movie about a talking dog. The plot centers first around a dog, Bailey, (voiced by Josh Gad) telling the story of each of its four lives, from birth till death, and his quest to find a purpose in the life of a dog through these numerous reincarnations. Sounds, interesting, huh? Well it certainly was.  

        The secondary plot of the film, that of the life of Bailey’s owner, Ethan, was actually played pretty well. As we see Ethan growing up through the eyes of his dog, he is a generally likable character, so you feel for him as he struggles with an alcoholic father, and his hopes of an athletic scholarship shattered when he breaks his leg. Shortly after, a now grown Bailey passes in the arms of Ethan, and here’s where I start to have problems.

   Here we start seeing so many of the common tropes that Disney-like dog movies face. Bailey is then reincarnated as a female German Shepherd named Ellie. The movie takes a 25 minute break to tell a complete unnecessary-to-the-plot story about her new life as a rescue dog with her new owner, Carlos. The only reason this sub-storyline is even present in this film is to tug the audience’s heartstrings with a “dog helps rescue someone dying” trope. We even see a “dog rescues someone from a burning building” scene earlier in the movie. Both of these are cheap ways to get an audience to tears, and I was unimpressed. However, what I can say about this act, it was interesting. It made me want to keep watching, even if it was something I’ve seen before in similar movies.

   What I didn’t find particularly interesting was the dogs next life, as Pembroke Welsh Corgi named Tino. Maybe it’s because I’m not a fan of small dogs, or that the “college student trying to find love” plot that the movie spends its next 20 minutes on wasn’t very captivating. I’ll spare you, unless you decide to see the film. Essentially, Tino helps her new owner Maya find love and start a nice, loving family, then dies, thanking her for a good life.

   The dog is now again reincarnated, and after spending a short time with a terrible, drunk, trash couple, runs away. Here we come to this movies ending, which I found coming from a mile away, but was nice nonetheless. The dog runs away for a long time and eventually stumbles across the old home of his original owner, Ethan. Now old, we find Ethan struggling through life on a farm, completely alone. The dog finds Ethan again, and Ethan decides to keep him. He is named Buddy, and, as the conclusion of the film, Buddy helps reunite Ethan with his girlfriend in high school, they get married, and Buddy finds a way to prove to Ethan that he is Bailey, by performing an impressive trick which Ethan thought Bailey years ago. And happily ever after.

   So, final verdict? It’s not terrible. A few oddities here and there, for instance, I find it interesting that, according to this movie’s logic, a dog’s soul only reincarnates into American locations. We see no owners in this film living outside of the US, it would’ve been nice to see multiple, more widespread cultures and lifestyles represented in the movie.

   It’s about what you would expect from a movie of this nature, however, I found it genuinely amusing. I found myself laughing at many of the jokes, and Josh Gad’s commentary is always amusing. The acting is pretty decent, and it does what it needs to do. My opinion? Go see it, if you’re the type of person that likes dog movies. If you’re reading this review, and you think you’re not going to like this movie, you probably won’t. If dog movies are your thing, by all means, go see it. 5/10