Film review by Jason Day of A Dog’s Purpose, the drama about a dog with several owners over several lifetimes. Starring Dennis Quaid and directed by Lasse Hallström.
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Seen through the eyes of a boisterous dog called Bailey (voiced by Josh Gadd) who loves several lives as different dogs down the years. He uncovers the meaning of why dog’s are here and what they do as he searches for his first owner, Ethan, with whom he was happiest. But Ethan has grown from a positive teenager into a lonely middle-aged man (Dennis Quaid).
Review, by Jason Day
There’s nothing better than a shaggy-dog movie to give a shorthand account of the nature of human kind.
As we peer into the screen puppy’s big brown eyes and shiny wet nose, we also look into humanity’s soul, produce a few tears from the audience’s eyes and throw in a few gross-out laughs about crotch-sniffing, toilet drinking and leg humping to lighten the mood.
From Rin Tin Tin in various silent movie adventures, Disney’s sentimental and tragic Old Yeller (1957) and their riotous knockabout comedy Beethoven (1992) to the deftly funny, intimate and emotional Marley and Me (2008), man’s four legged friend has helped us tuck and blub into our popcorn.
Trust then that the Swedish director Lasse Hallström would produce a more existential, lyrical and whimsical piece. This is the man who made a halcyon, wistful drama about a 1930’s abortionist, The Cider House Rules (1999).
A Dog’s Purpose goes for walkies along a similar route to Bresson’s Au Hasard Balthazar (1966), but Hallström eschews the religious parallels between the life of Christ and a donkey that is loved, neglected and abused by various human owners for a more esoteric, rural fairytale.
That said, the safety, comfort and love of Bailey’s lush, cornflower countryside is contrasted with the emotional longing and animal neglect that happens to him in the grey, grimy city.
So, what really goes on inside a dog’s mind, faced with all the smells, sights and sounds of this crazy human world around them? With the firmly anthropomorphised view the script takes, you won’t get answers from this film.
But you will get a lucid explanation of the workings of the canine-human bond. You’ll also get sweetness and tear-inducing emotion by the kennel load.
There are some funny moments too along the way, but a Bonio more of humour would have helped make this something really special.
Forget the haughty, canine-psychological insight the movie promises. This is a warm, simple and very moving film, but offers no great intellectual shakes.
Cast & credits
Director: Lasse Hallström. 100mins. Amblin/Pariah/Reliance/Walden Media. (PG)
Producer: Gavin Polone.
Writers: W. Bruce Cameron, Cathryn Michon, Audrey Wells, Maya Forbes, Wally Wolodarsky.
Camera: Terry Stacey.
Music: Rachel Portman.
Sets: Michael Carlin.
Josh Gad, Dennis Quaid, Peggy Lipton, Bryce Gheisar, K.J. Apa, Juliet Rylance, Luke Kirby.