A Dog’s Purpose movie review: No tear-ducts were harmed in the making of this film

Updated on Mar 31, 2017 04:17 PM IST

A Dog’s Purpose movie review: Josh Gad’s latest project, as the voice of a sentient dog searching for the meaning of life, fails to leave a mark. Even with all the doggy death.

Lasse Hallström’s latest project is not the dob-story we have come to expect from him.
Lasse Hallström’s latest project is not the dob-story we have come to expect from him.
Hindustan Times | By, New Delhi

A Dog’s Purpose
Director: Lasse Hallström
Cast: Josh Gad, Dennis Quaid
Rating: 2.5/5

Never read a comic book? You are not qualified to write on a superhero film: A reviewer is often told by the many, prowling Twitteratti, looking to draw blood at the slightest provocation. So, by the extension of the same logic, can someone, who has never owned a dog, author a review on a movie about dogs and their purpose in life? Here’s an attempt, regardless.

For Lasse Hallström’s latest attempt at making people cry, after films like Hachi: A Dog’s Tale and What’s Eating Gilbert Grape, he goes back to the trope he knows will work like a charm: Dogs. Anytime a dog dies in a film, it is the single, most awfully heartbreaking thing to happen. In A Dog’s Purpose, adorable doggies die. A lot. Even then, not a tear is shed, a snuff is snuffled or a gulp is gulped. How could Hallstorm achieve this impossible feat?

For that, we may have to scratch some records and rewind back to a few weeks ago when TMZ released a horrible video of a German Shepherd being forcefully made to swim in strong, artificially generated currents to shoot a scene for the film. It turned out to be a publicity nightmare for the film and turned away the exact community of audience they were hoping to bring to the theatres: dog lovers.

Now, the film about a dog trying to find its purpose in life through a series of relationships with humans, is left with people who don’t really care for the well-being of real dogs.

The film traces the many lives of a sweet simple dog (voiced by Josh Gad), wondering why he is even sent on Earth. He is given the gift of life five times but his second life is the one he cannot put behind himself. Bailey, a red lab, is welcomed into a family in 1960s US. He ‘keeps’ a little boy, Ethan to himself. The entire first half of the film traces Bailey’s life with the boy and the life of the boy himself, with an alcoholic father.

Soon, life happens to Bailey and he dies an old, lonely dog in the family home when Ethan goes to college, but his time with his boy is still not done. Bailey is born several times over: As a brave police sniffer dog, as an adorable corgi to help lonely girl find love and finally as a Saint Bernard to a heartless couple.

Kirby Howell-Baptists plays Maya in A Dog's Purpose. (Universal Studios)
Kirby Howell-Baptists plays Maya in A Dog's Purpose. (Universal Studios)

In his latest birth, he returns to ‘the boy’, now an old man, almost 50 years later and tries to bring back happiness to his life.

The only way to even be slightly entertained by A Dog’s Purpose, is if you choose to ignore. What you may choose depends on how old you are.

Of course, we do have a doggy with an existential crisis at the centre of the story but it still doesn’t know what a donkey is called. He knows the words ‘dog’ and ‘horse’, but not donkey. He knew several words ever since the moment he was born and things like ‘buses’ escape his vocabulary even over several births.

It does sound cute when a dog with the voice of Olaf calls a donkey a ‘horse-dog’ but not so much when you realise how conveniently some things are learnt while others are ignored by the dog.

Also, why is he so special? Do all dogs not have existential crises? Are not all of them born over and over again? If yes, why is their population not always exactly the same?

So, you too take inspiration for the sentient doggy and ignore the gaping holes in the film’s own logic and choose to swim against the torrid current of reason (much like that poor dog). Yeah, I know dogs are cute but you know what isn’t? TMZ videos of dogs being tortured for a film about dogs.

Follow @htshowbiz for more


    Soumya Srivastava is Entertainment Editor at Hindustan Times. She writes about movies and TV because what else is there to life anyway.

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