A Dog’s Purpose is a film that will make you curl up into a ball and cry like a little girl.  I say that because there were two 10 year old girls sitting in front of me at my screening who sobbed.  A lot.

The film is based on the New York Times’ best selling novel of the same name by W. Bruce Cameron, and chronicles the life of one doggo throughout many reincarnations. Josh Gad provides the voice of our narrator and main character Bailey, the dog who yearns to know what his purpose in life is.  It’s pretty much the canine Cloud Atlas, but more coherent:

Just from the trailer, you get pretty much all the emotional punches the film has.  The relationships of the humans to their animal(s) is the core element, and the enduring love of Bailey for his boy Ethan.

Mom (Juliet Rylance), puppy Bailey, and young Ethan (Bryce Gheisar) play in the yard

Much of the first half of the film is spent with Ethan and Bailey, making damn sure the audience understands the strong bond between the boy and his pup. The typical scenes of the dog chasing the cat and making a mess happen, and time passes. Teenaged Ethan (K.J. Apa) and Bailey encounter young Hannah (Britt Robertson) and she becomes a part of their pack until college and an unfortunate leg injury happen, greatly altering Ethan’s life.

Bailey eventually passes away, and is reincarnated as Ellie, the german shepherd police dog. This is where the great hubbub of animal abuse comes in, as there is a notable scene where Ellie dives into the churning water of a reservoir to save a young girl from drowning. I will NOT link to the video post of TMZ’s which show some piss poor judgement on the part of the crew on set that day.  I WILL link to Gavin Polone’s (The Hollywood Reporter contributor and Executive Producer on A Dog’s Purpose) piece regarding everything that happened. Anyhow, the scene happens, and more upsetting than the TMZ video is how Ellie mets her end- shot by the bad guy and passing in her officer’s lap.

Bailey as a CORGI
Bailey as a CORGI

The next body is that of a corgi (YAY), who helps a lonely college Maya (Kirby Howell-Baptiste) student find love. Bailey-the-corg lives a happy life alongside the large st bernard Maya’s husband owns, and human couple’s 3 lovely daughters. Eventually, time catches up and Bailey passes again.

Puppy Bailey 4.0
Puppy Bailey 4.0

Bailey is now a fluffy mixed breed, an adorable guy who is taken from a grocery store parking lot and pretty much neglected by two humans until he’s released at a train station by one of them.  Now, without a home, Bailey starts wandering.  He eventually finds his way back to a farm he recognized by smell, and rediscovers adult Ethan (Dennis Quaid). The world alines and somehow, adult Hannah (Peggy Lipton) encounters stay Bailey (named Buddy at this point) and returns him to Ethan.  They rekindle their teenage relationship, and a happy ending complete with farmhouse wedding happens.  As they’re cleaning up the party, Buddy finds a treasure from his past with Ethan, and through some of their favorite games convinces Ethan he’s ACTUALLY Bailey.

Bailey 4.0 and grown up Ethan (Dennis Quaid) reunited
Bailey and grown up Ethan (Dennis Quaid) reunited

SCORE:  3 out of 5, will see again, at home, so I can cry in peace and quiet

If you are an animal lover, this film will hit you hard when the deaths occur, I won’t lie.  If you’ve ever owned a pet you loved, this movie will hit you hard.  If you see it in the right circumstances with the right audience, this movie will hit you hard.  Bring tissues.

A Dog’s Purpose opens worldwide on January 27th, 2017.

ABOUT >> Mary Anne Butler
  • BIO >> Mary Anne Butler (Mab) is a reporter and photographer from San Francisco California. She is a lifelong geek, huge music nerd, occasionally cosplays at conventions, does Renaissance Faires, and in general lives the life of a True Believer. She may be short, but she makes up for it with a loud voice.
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