A Dog’s Purpose is a sucker punch for people who love their pets, myself included. This adaptation of W. Bruce Campbell’s best-selling book isn’t terribly original or profound but it is sweet—some would say overly so, but I’m not complaining because I enjoyed it.
Why such a simple, straightforward film required five (credited) screenwriters I can’t imagine, but director Lasse Hallström, who made the moving Hachi: A Dog’s Tale (2010), knows his way around this kind of material. The movie is narrated by Josh Gad as a dog who lives many lives with a variety of owners. Every time he dies he is reincarnated as a different breed in a completely new situation. That’s how our hero becomes a heroine at one point.
The humans in these vignettes are likable, none more so than the boy who raises Bailey from puppyhood. Bryce Gheisar plays the endearing 8-year old and KJ Apa takes over the role as a teenager. Others in the cast include Dennis Quaid, Peggy Lipton, Juliet Rylance, Luke Kirby, and John Ortiz.
A Dog’s Purpose is rated PG because it’s the kind of movie grownups and kids can enjoy together. There is some suspense and gunfire during the segment when the canine becomes a member of the Chicago police force, but for the most part the story is benign.
Sentimental? Absolutely. Manipulative? Yes. Memorable? Not if you compare it to great movies dating back to Lassie Come Home. But I was entertained, and that’s all I could ask for in a film of this kind.