A Dog's Purpose (PG)

Comedy 100 min. January 27, 2017
By Chris Packham
A Dog’s Purpose, based on the novel by W. Bruce Cameron, combines the philosophical belief that living beings are reborn into a different physical body after biological death with the voiceover narrative technique of Look Who’s Talking. The main character, Dog, dies in multiple wrenching scenes and is subsequently reborn; during his many lives, his thoughts are voiced by Josh Gad, and he engages in a lot of internal doggy eschatology, wondering about the meaning of life and what he’s meant to do.

Well, a dog's purpose, it turns out, is to be reincarnated into a different sappy mini-Hallmark movie after every death. A less brainy (and much less violent) Amores Perros, the film is ridiculously manipulative, guiding the audience through scenes of doggy loneliness and low-grade cruelty from humans -- not outright sadism, but terrible neglect. Which brings us to A Dog's Purpose's purpose. In Blade Runner, the cops test people for replicantism by asking them questions intended to evoke an emotional response -- most of which involve animals dying. That’s a really easy button to push: big, red and shiny, easily accessible for even the clumsiest interrogator. Director Lasse Hallström, known for What’s Eating Gilbert Grape and Chocolat (not to mention My Life as a Dog, which, unlike this film, isn’t about an actual canine), isn’t notably clumsy, but given a script that called for repeatedly mashing that big, red button, he’s smacked on it like the bongos in a Santana song.
Lasse Hallström Britt Robertson, Josh Gad, Peggy Lipton, Dennis Quaid, Juliet Rylance, John Ortiz, Luke Kirby, Gabrielle Rose, Pooch Hall, Nicole LaPlaca W. Bruce Cameron, Cathryn Michon Universal Pictures

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