Based on the beloved bestselling novel by W. Bruce Cameron, “A Dog’s Purpose,” from director Lasse Hallström (“Dear John”, “The 100-Foot Journey”), shares the soulful and surprising story of one devoted dog (voiced by Josh Gad) who finds the meaning of his own existence through the lives of the humans he teaches to laugh and love.
“A Dog’s Purpose” is a delightful movie! It is fun-filled, and it induces laughs, based on the behavior of dogs which dog owners and lovers will appreciate. There are four stories that are shared, and they are ultimately connected. The idea of “dog reincarnation” is used as a plot device, done so in the spirit of imagination, as the movie features a dog that speaks to the audience and in which we can hear his thoughts. He is first born as “Bailey,” and when he meets his human Ethan, he says, “I am going to really like this boy!” They play together, and Bailey learns to perform a few tricks for Ethan. Although Ethan’s dad is reluctant to let Ethan keep Bailey at first, Ethan’s mom squares it with Dad, and Bailey becomes an official member of the family. Dad is a traveling salesman, the top performer at his job, and although he would prefer to be at home more with his family, his company unfortunately wants him to continue traveling. This leads at times to Dad drinking and to having a few arguments with Mom.
As the story jumps ahead to high school, Ethan meets a young lady, Hannah (Britt Robertson), and earns an athletic scholarship to Michigan State University. However, a tragedy results in the scholarship being lost, and Ethan breaks off his relationship with Hannah, believing he will not be able to offer her a good life.
The next few stories soon follow, after an older “Bailey” is put to sleep at the vet’s. As “Ellie,” Bailey is now a female dog and winds up with Carlos, a lonely police officer who is no longer with the woman he loved. Ellie gets a chance to save a girl’s life, but Ellie meets with a tragic and violent ending. The next story finds Bailey, a.k.a. Ellie, becoming “Tino,” the pet of Maya, a lonely woman who longs to meet the love of her life. Tino winds up falling for a dog himself and becomes part of a larger family. Finally, the story goes full circle when it concludes with the fourth story and with “Buddy,” who is still really Bailey. Buddy helps Ethan, now in his older years, pick up where he once left off. He learns there is still plenty of life to be lived.
This cute movie will engage the audience with its humor, such as when Bailey makes himself at home when the family is gone, when he lies on top of the kitchen table, when he thinks his name is “Bailey, Bailey, Bailey,” or when he plays doing his various tricks. There is a young man who causes a tragic fire when he throws fireworks into a home, and a dog is shot in one scene with some resulting blood, including a small pool of it on the ground. For these reasons, we are awarding our Dove Family-Approved Seal for ages 12-plus to the movie. Parents should consult the content listings as they might be all right with their children a bit younger watching the film. The laughs and fun are really what this film is all about!