Swedish director Lasse Hallstrom has a thing for dog films - he's made three to date. My Life As A Dog (not really about a dog), Hachi: A Dog's Tale (very much about a dog), and now A Dog's Purpose.
A sweet family film about loving and loyal dogs and their special bonds with their owners; A Dog's Purpose got off to a rough start days before its American premiere when TMZ were sent an edited video showing a German Shepherd being mistreated on set. It's since been found that, though mistakes were made during shooting, the dog's life was never in danger.
The scene in question is intense and a touch scary but doesn't reflect the majority of the film, which is much lighter, and filled with frolicking and playing dogs who keep their human companions happy by snuggling up at night.
This is a film that makes you want to adopt a dog the minute you leave the theatre so if you have kids begging for a dog, consider yourself warned. You may also want to prepare for the rather interesting theme of canine existentialism and reincarnation.
Our hero, who we first get to know as red retriever Bailey (voiced by Josh Gad), questions the meaning of life from the moment the story begins.
Bailey is rescued and taken in by young boy Ethan (Bryce Gheisar) and they quickly become inseparable, even when Ethan becomes a teenager (now played very competently by NZ actor K.J Apa) and juggles being a high school football star, having a girlfriend (Britt Robertson), and dealing with his father's alcoholism and parents' separation.
Ethan's life doesn't turn out quite the way he expects, but Bailey lives a nice life on Ethan's grandparents' farm. After Bailey passes away he returns as a series of dogs who are by turns loved and neglected by various owners, until he ultimately finds his purpose in life. It brings Bailey and Ethan's story neatly full circle, but it's a touch too far-fetched to deliver the emotional climax effectively.
It's hard to avoid repetition with this premise - even Bailey sounds a touch weary saying "here we go again" each time he's reincarnated. And yes, it's filled with schmaltzy moments and lines, but the canine stars are adorable, and dog lovers will enjoy this nice, gentle and slightly weird take on loving and losing a pet.
Josh Gad, Dennis Quaid, K.J Apa
One for the dog lovers.