Swanner: Let me start by saying I know there is some controversy about the film, A Dog’s Purpose, so I’m going to review the movie as is, and not jump into the drama. I’m a dog person. I have nothing against cats, but I’m too needy to wait for a cat to show me some love. When I saw the preview for the film, I was immediately in tears, and even though the preview does give too much away, I knew I had to see the film. I wasn’t disappointed.
Bailey (voiced by Josh Gad) is a sweet puppy that is saved from a hot car by a boy, Ethan, and his mother. Bailey comes to live with Ethan where he learns to play and chase chickens, but mostly Bailey learns his purpose is to love and protect Ethan. After many years together Bailey passes away, but suddenly finds himself a puppy again. Bailey is reincarnated as Ellie, a German Shepard, who joins the police force K-9 unit. Even though Bailey, now Ellie, is a different dog, and a different sex even, he still remembers Ethan and knows Ethan is his purpose and continues his quest to find the boy he left behind.
Director Lasse Hallstrom (The Cider House Rules) not only knows how to tell a good story, but he knows how to make people pay to see a movie they know they are going to cry through. He has made some wonderful films and A Dog’s Purpose can stand up aside Hallstrom’s Chocolat, The 100 Foot Journey, and What’s Eating Gilbert Grape. Based on the novel by W. Bruce Cameron, Cameron and co-writers Cathryn Michon, Audrey Wells, Maya Forbes, and Wally Wolodarsky have written a lovely family film that, yes, will make you cry, but will also have you looking at your own dog a bit differently when you get home.
The cast is all wonderful, and that includes all the animals in the film. But, what makes this film work so well is the voiceover work of Josh Gad. His Olaf from Frozen stands as one of the great animated characters of all time, and that talent comes in handy here where he brings Bailey and his incarnate pups to life. I will warn you that if you are embarrassed about sobbing uncontrollably in public, you might just want to wait to see the film on home video in the future. I would suggest seeing the movie in the theatre because everyone is crying, and there is solace in sharing this lovely film with others like yourself. It’s like group therapy with a concession stand.
Swanner: 4 stars