“Is there any point to this? And why does food taste so much better in the trash?”
Forgive us for thinking that a movie about a canine’s connection with a human would be the sappy, soapy kind that rinses you clean only to shake you off like a wet dog.
Like the early stages of puppy training, this movie demands patience and discipline because you are in for a real sweet treat in the end.
Josh Gad (Frozen, Beauty & the Beast) is Bailey, the cheeky retriever with a heart as golden as his fur, who loyally serves the family of Ethan Montgomery (KJ Apa-Riverdale and Dennis Quaid), a promising athlete who is beset with loss and personal heartache from a young age.
Here the story takes a familiar yet well heeled arc that resembles 17 Again and Toy Story. An emotional bond is formed, but regret and the pains of growing up set them apart. Bailey suddenly embodies other dog breeds and is placed with different owners, and with each new doggy year he is left questioning how he can best serve his new family as they overcome self-loathing, loneliness, jealousy and painful shyness. Thankfully, it is the humans who are responsible for their own fate and not the Messianic mutt.
Much of the humour centres on the simple joy and mannerisms that makes dogs what they are-the relentless sniffing for food, the bewilderment at being asked human questions, and their boundless energy with ball games. Whether you are a dog person or not, it’s guaranteed to make you sigh and sniff during these understated moments of familiarity. Prepare for dogsploitation of the cute kind.
It’s a fly on the wall approach from a dog who is dually an observer and catalyst.
Director Lasse Hallström (whose first name sounds uncannily like a dog) gives us humans an existential movie based off W. Bruce Cameron’s book of the same name that at times does feel like it perhaps is a little too complicated for a furry friend to chew on. Our own mortal fears and anxieties are tied to the plot device of a canine’s cross-section into modern relationships. Josh Gad’s playful voice narration is nonetheless endearing, and despite the constant reincarnations that are slightly repetitive, we are not left feeling dizzy after chasing this dog’s journey.
A Dog’s Purpose grovels for your attention, but just like your favourite pet, you can forgive it for doing so.