A Dog’s Purpose

… to sell schmaltz to an easy audience, apparently

R eincarnation is an odd concept, huh? Assuming you believe in the notion of a soul, wouldn’t you naturally hope the soul travels to an ethereal plane of existence after death, and not just get recycled?  Hmmm, could be wrong here.  Maybe the idea of recycled souls is the superior one. The very first Lasse Hallström film I ever saw was My Life as a Dog; the one I saw last weekend (A Dog’s Purpose) could be more appropriately titled “My Life as Several Dogs,” in which the soul of Bailey the dog travels through a pack of canine lifetimes without memory reset. What has this magical being learned through decades of death and being born anew? That when he has a tail, he can catch it.

If that’s what one learns from being immortal, I’m good with death.

Bailey (voice of Josh Gad), sorry, that’s “Bailey Bailey Bailey Bailey” –this is what passes for humor in the film—is a red retriever in the most important iteration of his lives.  A Dog’s Purpose shows “Bailey” as five different dogs during the movie, each asking important philosophical questions, coming to no conclusion, and settling on feeble interpretation of the mundane. Through the voice of Gad, Bailey is anthropomorphized so that chasing another pet around the house is interpreted as “giving ‘dog lessons’ to the cat.” Again, this is what goes for humor in the film.

The bulk of the movie is the retriever-Bailey episode, a love story with his boy Ethan (Bryce Gheisar as the prepubescent version, K.J. Apa as a teen. Gheiser gets to fall in love with the dog; Apa gets to fall in love with a girl). And fall in love he does with Hannah (Britt Robertson) as the two share a romance normally reserved for those with dull imaginations and a ton of free time. Lack of imagination is the key to this story. I have no idea how five (5!) writers did it, but they managed to telegraph every single plot point in the film miles in advance. Perhaps they wanted to make sure even a dog could follow along without getting confused.

Right now, I’m not really sure whether this film was intended for people who see dogs as reasonable substitutes for partners, or perhaps as proof that insipid, tedious Southern romance isn’t confined to Nicholas Sparks. The romance has to exist because the humor and philosophy is piss poor. “What’s life about? Dunno, but I like bacon!” While Gad maybe one of us, he’s terribly wrong for this film. I’m sure Josh Gad was pegged as the dog’s voice for the fresh ‘n’ innocent feel he gave us as Olaf in Frozen, but here, it travels exactly as far as the trailer. Dude, by your third life, maybe you could know something about something, y’know?

A Dog’s Purpose has made headlines for possible animal abuse. I’ve seen the video of the complaint; it sure looks like abuse,  which would be appalling.  I’ll grant, however, there are extenuating circumstances; honestly, I’m in no spot to judge for certain – regardless, the possible abuse immediately reminded me of last week’s dog, Monster Trucks. The latter chose to display its bent for ecology by tearing up greenery with unnecessarily ADogsPurpose2large fossil-fuel consuming vehicles. Here we show our love of dogs by possibly abusing them. Maybe this is a new trend in filmmaking – you know you can only hurt the one you love. Please, please, please let the director, writer and all the cast and crew of Fifty Shades Darker be abused. Please.  [I’m just kidding; I don’t really wish for the creators, crew and stars of Fifty Shades Darker to be abused.  Then again, I haven’t seen it yet; I reserve the right to change my darker desires.]

This film will appeal to number of undiscriminating dog lovers out there. You’ll guess the action well in advance, but many of you won’t care. You may even get weepy eyed and note how A Dog’s Purpose shows loyalty to a fairly traditional set of values like farming, football, and falling forever for the first female you French. How all that jives with the accompanying conveniences of repeated euthanasia, reincarnation, and pet abuse is beyond me. My guess is fans of the traditional will talk themselves into being ok with the other. For my money, it’s just another drone on the mange. I love man’s best friend, but boy did I not love this. Bad dog!

♪Some people call me the space taker
Some call me an infernal piece of *bleep*
Ethan calls me “Bailey Bailey Bailey Bailey Bailey”
Every decade, I get put to sleep

‘Cause I’m a setter
I’m a schnauzer
I’m a bow wow wowser
Like to chase my tail for fun

I’m a husky
I’m a collie
I’m a short haired corgi
Uh oh, my time with you is done♫

Rated PG, 120 Minutes
D: Lasse Hallström
W: W. Bruce Cameron & Cathryn Michon & Audrey Wells & Maya Forbes & Wally Wolodarsky (Lawdy … how many people does it take to write a good film?)
Genre: Doggin’ it
Type of person most likely to enjoy this film: Dog lovers
Type of person least likely to enjoy this film: Cat lovers

♪ Parody inspired by “The Joker”

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2 Responses to “A Dog’s Purpose” Subscribe

  1. A2 February 6, 2017 at 6:19 pm #

    Yeah, but did you cry?

  2. Jim February 6, 2017 at 8:07 pm #

    Well of course I cried. What am I? Made of stone? Doesn’t make it a good film, tho.

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