A Dog's Purpose
2 Waffles!

A dog’s purpose in this movie is to distract you from the controversy.

Josh Gad provides the voice of Bailey – a dog in the middle of an existential crisis. He wants to understand why he exists, what his purpose is on this planet, and when will he get another chance to eat some bacon.

After a shorter life (which doesn’t seem to add anything to the movie, so why waste time on it?), he ends up being the family dog and becomes best friends with an 8-year old boy, Ethan (Bryce Gheisar). Over the years, we see them face trials, tribulations, true love and more together as best buddies.

Then, Bailey moves on to other lives and starts to understand his place, but will he ever find Ethan again?

Director Lasse Hallstrom is pulling every trick out of the book to get the audience misty eyed, and succeeds more often than not, but A Dog’s Purpose is a cotton candy, feel good movie with twists and turns that are too convenient and too neat and tidy.

The whole story featuring Ethan and Bailey is the primary plot of A Dog’s Purpose and the five person writing team should have stuck to it. The idea that Bailey’s spirit is moving from dog to dog is a very hippie Hollywood idea, but it feels forced as each of the other stories is so short and void of any real meaning and depth. They are time killers until we get back to the main Bailey-Ethan relationship.

Hallstrom fills the movie with all sorts of goofy, slapstick-style humor to keep kids giggling, but the subject matter seems too much for kids not in their teens. Good luck to the parent who has to explain to their child why Bailey feels so tired and has to visit the vet for the last time.

However, Gad deserves some credit for providing such an emotional, touching vocal performance as Bailey. He knows when to give the dog the right amount of fear, naivete and love the way a true vocal artist should. The whole movie would have been a failure if he and Hallstrom decided to fill Bailey with sarcasm and attitude. Instead, the earnest take on Bailey feels perfect.

Many of you have heard about the controversy by now (where an on set video makes it look like the handlers were forcing a dog to engage in a dangerous stunt when the dog was trying to get away), and it is very difficult not to remember those scenes as the movie plays on the big screen. Search your own feelings and beliefs about whether or not you can support the movie after that.

A Dog’s Purpose is a close miss, but a miss nonetheless.

A Dog's Purpose is rated PG for thematic elements and some peril.

120 Minutes