We’ll leave controversy out of this review and talk only about the film. If you’ve ever wondered what the purpose of life is and you love dogs, A Dog’s Purpose is the film for you. It entwines the two in a curious story that’s filled with sweet and adorable. Director Lasse Hallström (What’s Eating Gilbert Grape, Chocolat, The 100-Foot Journey), takes on the issue of reincarnation and attempts to explain the afterlife through the life of Bailey, as he’s born, passes and is reborn again… and again. His incarnations are Ellie, Tino and Waffles and every time he returns he can never shake the feeling that there’s something he’s missing, that he must have a purpose other than being best friend to his new owner… something but what?
The movie opens on Bailey having just been born. The kids will smile with glee as the screen fills with puppies to fall in love with. We’re in 1961. Bailey is rescued by a youngster named Ethan. His parents let him keep the dog so he takes him home and Ethan becomes Bailey’s boy. The pooch goes onto a wonderful life of playing catch and being loved. Through the years we have point of view camera angles from both Bailey and Ethan which are clever and fun to observe, especially the shot from inside of the sniffing dogs’ nostrils. As boy’s do, Ethan grows up and gets a girlfriend but Bailey is still a very important part of his life. Bailey never goes without and is as happy as a dog can be. How we know this is because he tells us so. He tells us through the voice of Josh Gad. Often cast in comedic roles, Gad was frisky animating the voice of this perplexed pup as he was as Olaf in Frozen. He’s also a good choice because not only is he capable with humor but he can easily adjust if a dramatic moment is needed.
The script is written to entertain adults yet efforts were made to not go over the heads of youngsters who will be drawn to the film. The filmmakers handle the dogs passing away in a very sensitive manner. The young children shouldn’t be hurt or too deeply concerned since the dog always returns. Taking the kids to this might be a good way to approach the subject of death with them, without the real heartbreak you get from films such as Where the Red Fern Grows or Old Yeller which were heavy on the heart. Instead of tears for days, see this, open up a question and answer session and just like that, it’s out of the way. It’s made clear that death brings Bailey happiness as he returns and screams with joy that he’s back. The new puppy we see each time is a happy visual that will blanket any feeling of shock if young viewers were feel any.
As you assumed there would be there’s a nice happy ending to the movie that I won’t share. I assure you there’s a positive message for all. Again, this is a good movie for families to watch and enjoy together but the twenty-something’s would most likely yawn their way through which is why I didn’t rate it higher. There are a few silly moments that were a bit too contrived but the film is one to take the kids to see this weekend. They’ll have a blast watching Bailey fulfill his purpose which is to lick the ones he loves and to be here now.