A Dog's Purpose (2017)

11:39 AM

Every dog happens for a reason.
This review contains Spoilers
 A Dog's Purpose is directed by Lasse Hallström (Safe Haven, Hachi: A Dog's Tale) and stars Josh Gad (Frozen, Beauty and the Beast), K.J. Apa (Riverdale, Shortland Street), Britt Robertson (Tomorrowland, Girlboss) and Dennis Quaid (The Day After Tomorrow, Fortitude). "A dog looks to discover his purpose in life over the course of several lifetimes and owners". A film surrounded by controversy, can A Dog's Purpose come out on top or will it be sent to the doghouse?

I wasn't going to see A Dog's Purpose due to all of the controversy surrounding the film - as soon as that video was released that seemed to show a dog in the film being mistreated, I was fully onboard with boycotting and ignoring it. However, as time as gone on, cast members believe the whole fiasco was fake news and I've watched other controversial films (e.g. Manchester by the Sea/Casey Affleck) so I decided to watch it, distancing it from the horrendous baggage it carries. I also want to note that working at a cinema has its perks and I was able to see this one for free so I am technically not supporting the film. Back to the film itself - A Dog's Purpose is a disposable film that belongs on the small, TV screen - it's definitely not a film that has to be seen in cinemas. It's emotionally manipulative at times but does earn emotion occasionally. A forgettable, throwaway puppy flick that got way more attention that it deserved. 

Nothing in A Dog's Purpose is that amazing - everything is pretty mediocre. The performances are all ok - there isn't really a lead due to the way the narrative is set up but the closest we get to a lead is Josh Gad - well, only his voice. Gad does a fine job but this is probably one of his least memorable roles since he blew up after Frozen. The creative choice to have Gad voice every single dog works but when putting thought into it, surely dogs have different personalities and genders so I don't know why the voice (and character) doesn't change. Gad certainly wasn't able to pull off a James McAvoy in Split which I think is the only way this role would have worked. K.J. Apa is someone who has only recently come onto my radar since I have started watching Riverdale- which he is good in. Here, I don't think much is asked of him but he does an acceptable job even though Riverdale is where he truly shines. Britt Robertson. Do I have to say anymore? It is arguable that Robertson has not made a good film in 5 years. I used to defend Robertson - I still think she did a good enough job in Tomorrowland and The Longest Ride but I think it's no coincidence that every film she touches is critically slammed and of a poor quality. I don't know if its because other actors find it hard to have chemistry with Robertson or she just hasn't found the right role. I don't want to say she's an awful actress because I think she does show promise, she is just a worrying actress - I will be extremely cautious of any film (or project) starring her from now onwards. Unsurprisingly, the chemistry between Apa and Robertson was far from electric. Dennis Quaid also did an alright job - he features in one of the best scenes in the film. There are many other actors who play more one dimensional, filler characters and honestly, they aren't worth writing about. 

Going into A Dog's Purpose, I knew it was going to be emotional - films about loveable pets can't be made without at least one pet dying. The first story the film sets up is definitely the strongest - it spends the most time on it and I truly felt the connection between Bailey and Ethan - it was obvious that the dog meant something special to that boy. This made Bailey's death the most powerful and emotional out of the many deaths in the film. However, I think Bailey deserved better - within seconds the film cuts to baby puppies and starts telling a new story about a police dog. This story was the most fast paced and the death of the dog was the most shocking. However, this was pure emotional manipulation as the film relied on the horrific imagery of a dog getting shot to make the audience feel upset rather than actually developing a connection between the dog and owner. The next dog's story is the most forgettable but the film just begins to get more and more repetitive - I became desensitised to the emotional scenes because they were happening so often. 5 dogs die in this film (and 1 cat) - that seems sad on paper but I think it was just too much for a 100 minute light-hearted family film which just didn't have the time or guts to develop each relationship to earn the emotions. That being said, when Ethan is reunited with Buddy (who is also Bailey) at the end of the film, I did feel quite happy and emotional - it was really well done and somewhat unexpected. I didn't expect the film to go full-circle, I literally thought it was going to spend the rest of the time killing off more dogs until we found another caring owner like Ethan - I certainly wasn't expecting Ethan himself. A Dog's Purpose (somewhat laughably) tries to shoehorn a message in at the end about living in the moment - this wasn't a theme at all in the film and also, it never became exactly clear what a dog's purpose it. The film portrayed it as making lonely people happy but I actually feel like dogs mean something different to different people. 

The film was also incredibly cliche and unoriginal. Every single character had something really drastic going on - whether that be an alcoholic father, a burned down house, a kidnapping, a widowed husband or a woman who is lonely and given up on love. I just think the story could have been told without all of these cliches and stereotypes - representing the real world not the same movie world we've seen 100 times. Lots of the human moments were also quite boring - there are talks about nuclear bombs and other serious conversations that are unnecessary and are just going to go over the target audiences' heads and probably have parents questioning why this is included in a kid's film. 

Finally, the controversy - the video showed a German Shepard being repeatedly forced into rapid water that it did not want to go in and almost drowning. When this scene occurs in the film, I felt very uncomfortable and it took me out of the film because all I could think of was the poor dog, not what was going on on-screen. There are also some moments in the film that I ended up feeling similarly to due to my imagination - dogs crawl through really small hatches and wired fences - something I don't think they'd do out of choice. I really tried not to let this get in the way of what I thought about the film in terms of quality but I really think dogs or any animal for that matter shouldn't be used as show ponies - we have top quality CGI these days, use the dogs for stuff they are domestically comfortable with and then add the other bits with special effects. It's just unfair. 

A Dog's Purpose is a forgettable and disposable family film that caused all that controversy for what? An average and mediocre film that nobody is going to be talking about in a few months time (they treated that dog poorly for no reason). The performances are all ok but I don't think this should be included on anybodies showreel - maybe Britt Robertson as it adds to her plethora of poor films. The dogs are cute and the film is reptetiviely emotional - sometimes earned, often not. Something more original could have been done with this concept but I do think it will please dog lovers as it does tap into the idea of why they are man's best friend. If I was to tell you to rush out to see this film, I would be barking bad. You can wait and to be honest you'll probably forget you even wanted to watch it. 


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