Based on the bestselling novel, A Dog’s Purpose is a ruff movie. In one of the most emotionally manipulative films of 2017, this adaptation is a tone-deaf number from beginning to end. It forgoes sincerity, depth and empathy, aiming to wring every drop of “emotion” from its audience. It is a negative, exhausting, disingenuous film that throttles your heartstrings constantly.
A Dog’s Purpose follows one dog across several decades and lives, with Josh Gad the voice of our canine protagonist. Each mini-sode is fine, but frustratingly underdeveloped. It introduces characters with suitable intrigue: a loner 8 year-old with an alcoholic dad in the 1960s, a beat cop in the 1970s, a loner student from Atlanta in the 1980s – all have promising setups. The problem being there is no purpose to any of them.
The actors are dealing with dud hands as they have little to no time to develop the movie’s themes or their own characters. Ethan (played by KJ Aja and Dennis Quaid) is the nearest thing to a human lead but is little more than an empty vessel. Despite having the thread of an alcoholic dad to develop, the character simply exists. The film presents a powerful emotional situation, treating it with an almost alien-like disdain. It just happens, seemingly relying on the audience to fill in the dramatic blanks.
This leads to the biggest issue for the film: it’s straight-up miserable. For even the most ardent dog lover, watching an adorable canine die repeatedly is tough. More than tough, it’s meaningless and infuriating when it serves no other purpose than to want to make you cry.
This film fails to earn a single emotional reaction of its own merit. Instead it preys on sadness offering little in return but misery and saccharine sentimentality.
CAST: Josh Gad, Dennis Quaid, Peggy Lipton, Juliet Rylance, Britt Robertson, Bryce Gheisar
DIRECTOR: Lasse Hallström
WRITERS: W. Bruce Cameron, Cathryn Michon, Audrey Wells, Maya Forbes, Wally Wolodarsky
SYNOPSIS: A dog looks to discover his purpose in life over the course of several lifetimes and owners.