Film Review: A Dog’s Purpose

Adapted from W. Bruce Cameron’s 2010 novel — with a few changes — A Dog’s Purpose is a charming, and at times, sentimental tale of a dog’s life and his purpose on earth, vis-à-vis humans. Narrated by the dog Bailey (voice of Josh Gad) the film starts off with a young Red Retriever being adopted by eight-year-old Ethan (Bryce Gheisar) and his mom under fortuitous circumstances despite the father’s initial objections.  The frisky and chirpy Bailey bonds well with Ethan, getting his young master into trouble and demonstrating his undying loyalty and unconditional love on more than one occasion.

The latter half of the film is devoted to Bailey’s incarnations — as Ellie, a female German shepherd police dog; with Carlos (John Ortiz as his handler); as a Corgi (Tino) with Maya, a lonely college student as owner and as a mistreated and neglected Saint Bernard who, after being abandoned, ultimately finds his way to a now grown-up, companionless Ethan (Dennis Quaid), when a dog’s multiple purposes are revealed!

A Dog’s Purpose is a tenderly made, reasonably well-crafted film – well, there are a few contrived situations such as when the teenaged Ethan’s (KJ Apa) house is burnt down or Josh Gad’s voice being used for the female dog too. Performances are good, especially Bryce as the young Ethan and Britt Robertson as the teenaged Hannah in love with Ethan. But the film really belongs to man’s (humans’ actually) four best friends portrayed by the different species of canines — cute and cuddly, devoted and dutiful, loveable and loyal. The dogs’ trainers too need to be complimented as much as director Hallstrom (My Life as a Dog, Hachi: A Dog’s Tale).

The film is bound to appeal to kids and dog lovers in particular, and is bound to prove a tear-jerker each time the canine passes on to its afterlife.

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