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Film review: A Dog’s Purpose – canine soul poses existential questions in saccharine and predictable tale

Starring Dennis Quaid and the voice of Josh Gad, A Dog’s Purpose induces plenty of eye-rolling, but at least director Lasse Hallström’s film features plenty of adorable and believable dog performances and excellent set design

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 22 August, 2017, 7:02am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 22 August, 2017, 9:53am

2.5/5 stars

A Dog’s Purpose opens with a group of puppies playing on a grassy field. Before the audience can even finish saying “awww”, however, one who wanders too far off course is grabbed by a dogcatcher’s net and promptly euthanised.

This cycle of seeing a cute dog and watching it die happens three more times throughout the film, to canines of various breeds – there’s a Welsh corgi, a German shepherd, and a golden retriever. They, along with the puppy in the opening and the St. Bernard that closes the film, all share one soul (and are voiced by one actor, Josh Gad of Beauty and the Beast ).

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We follow this soul through decades, as it reincarnates over and over but somehow still retains memories of its past life, all in the search for “life’s purpose” as a dog. Yes, it is as cheesy as it sounds.

Those familiar with director Lasse Hallström’s work – such as Dear John and Hachi: A Dog’s Tale – shouldn’t be surprised at the saccharine, eye-roll-inducing nature here.

But at least the film features plenty of adorable and believable dog performances, excellent set and costume design (since the film spans five decades), and an established, proven actor in Dennis Quaid to carry the film’s silly twist ending that can be seen from miles away.

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While A Dog’s Purpose means well, it ultimately tries too hard to be more than just a standard “cute pet film”, instead ending up pretentious and manipulative. This is a film that thinks it is asking grand existential questions, when in reality it is just regurgitating the message that almost everyone – even cat people – already knows: dogs are kind, gentle creatures that love us unconditionally.

A Dog’s Purpose opens on August 24

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