Review: 'A Dog's Purpose' Is Touching, But Not Very Good

Read the full movie review.

ByDavid Blaustein
January 27, 2017, 10:38 AM

— -- Rated - PG

Starring Josh Gad, Dennis Quaid

Two out of five stars

Josh Gad is the voice of a dog’s soul that is literally born again and again, and again. The one constant? He strives to find out what his purpose is. Why does he keep coming back for more? That’s similar to the question you’ll be asking yourself throughout the movie: Why do I keep watching this?

For the first 25 minutes, I kept forcing myself to find reasons to endure the snail-paced, boring narrative. I have a deep appreciation for the gifted Gad -- just check out the online video he posted this week, trying to get Daisy Ridley to explain why the next "Star Wars" film is called "The Last Jedi." I also like dogs. But this dog’s inane dialogue, which consists of canine observations informed by a human perspective, makes zero sense within the film’s fantasy world.

For instance, in the dog’s first life, he’s never met a human boy before. But when he does, he instantly knows he’s a human boy, and knows he’s called a “boy.” If that’s the case, how come he doesn’t know his tail is called a tail?

To give us insight into what kind of lives this dog leads, we see him as a golden retriever, a German shepherd, some sort of spaniel, some kind of little dog, and a mutt. All of them are adorable, though that’s sometimes undermined by the dialogue. The human drama surrounding each dog’s life, on occasion, makes the movie slightly more relatable and, at times, likable. Each of his owners has a conflict: a family with an abusive father; a single woman who thinks she’ll never find love; a lonely divorced cop; and a trashy couple that puts zero effort into taking care of the dog.

Full disclosure: I cried a few times, but only because watching a person’s heart break while their pet is being put to sleep is profoundly sad. This movie’s only redeeming quality is that it involves good actors. One might ask: do you really have to be a good actor to fake being sad over the death of a pet? The answer is, yes -- and those actors include Britt Robertson, Dennis Quaid, Peggy Lipton, John Ortiz, Kirby Howell-Baptiste and more.

Overall, "A Dog’s Purpose" is cornier than an Iowa cornfield. Yes, there are those parts that’ll make you cry, because, you know, you have a heart, you love animals and have probably lost a pet or two during your life. But you’re not going to laugh at the parts that are supposed to be funny, nor discover any empathy when the movie hopes you will. Those moments, and the religious and spiritual undertones, get lost in a poor script adaptation of W. Bruce Cameron’s novel, and some disappointing directing by Lasse Hallström.

The only reason I stayed to watch "A Dog’s Purpose" is because it’s my job and, from past experience, I know a movie can get better. "A Dog’s Purpose" does get better -- but never to a point where it could be considered a good movie.

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