Film · Review

A Dog’s Purpose: It’s a pup

‘I feel mislead by the advertising of A Dog’s Purpose’, is a stupid statement by a stupid person. It’s also my feeling. Like, it’s supposed to be about this dog being reincarnated in order to figure out what their life’s purpose is. There’s a whole bunch of posters with extreme close ups of loads of different cute dogs, and the majority of them aren’t even in the goddamn move. Like the pug, and the pomeranian, nope, they aren’t nowhere to be seen.

As for the most part is the whole reincarnation subplot, and that’s what it is, a subplot, because it gotta be about 80 percent, if not more of the film is all about this one boring white guys. First in his childhood in the late fifties, not even a good late fifties by the way, its simulacrum is creaking at the seams, and it’s just all the most boring cliché parts of the era. Then he comes back and finds that dude again in the present day when he now grown. Seems his purpose is to bring comfort to this one bland shitty dude.

In between there’s a five minute segment where he becomes a police dog, finds and saves a kidnapped girl, and is then shot. He then belongs to a college aged black girl who finds a husband and has some kids, again we have maybe five minutes of these characters before we go back to the boring one. Oh, in the final life we see, before he is reunited with his true master he’s kept by an abusive couple who abandon him. We know they’re evil because they have ‘alternate style’ y’know piercings, non-gender conforming clothes and accessories, they’re also poor. Escape this horror, go back to your rich old white boy.

The dog, in addition to the work of the many dog actors, is voiced throughout all his lives by Josh Gad. Voiceovers I guess are good in animal movies, because you get to write them after you’ve filmed all the animal stuff and try to give intention to these slightly uncontrollable beasts. The eventual choice was to make the dog a kindhearted, optimistic fool. Who wanted to do his best but fundamentally had no understanding of the human world. An explainable choice if not a good one.

The fifties story, gotta be half the running time, has the requisite abusive, drunk father (Luke Kirby, doing what is expected). Which is a tiresome and unappealing character as it means we see once again this tale of a browbeaten wife and child. Apparently Bradley Cooper was originally to play the dog, I can see his work being a little meaner. In the completed film, the animal’s obliviousness to the situation around him comes across as completely hateful. I had no sympathy for this animal’s complete antipathy to the world around him.

Of course it helps that the boy himself ain’t no great character himself. He’s the school’s star football player, jock would probably be the best descriptor, and given the time period probably one that was still in use. There’s nothing there, the closest thing he gets to a character is when he dumps his girlfriend because his toxic masculinity making him feel all sorry for himself, because of course he gets in an accident which renders him unable to play.

Oh, and it all goes on so long. Like the first time, he’s a feral pup, captured by animal control and woof, he dead. Then we spend a million hours with these dull bastards. Those fifteen minutes in the middle where’s it’s suddenly a 1970s New York cop show (John Ortiz plays the cop), complete with a shot of them running up an external fire escape, and then a comedy about a single woman (Kirby Howell-Baptiste) trying to make it in the world with her dog, brought me such life because at least it gave a brief reprieve from these folks.

The film seems to come to two conclusions as to what a dog’s purpose is. The first is the one opined by the dog himself, which we can safely ignore because he’s proven himself a poor narrator. The second is the one that the film makes over and over again, a dog is there to provide companionship in place of a specifically heterosexual romance.

It’s expressed in all the usual ways: he’s dating now so he’s got no time for me: his wife’s died and he’s using this animal for companionship; this woman’s too busy for a relationship with a human, why not a dog; this man’s alone and past his prime, how can a pup help him find his true hetero companion? Yeeeaaaah… I’d have more patience if it deviated from this model somewhat, but the only time it does is with that abusive owner, so that one don’t really count.

It’s so diminishing, it just treads over and over the same thematic grounds without deviation, and then on top of that it uses its actual interesting stores as mere filler in order to support this one trashy boring overplayed story. Why. It seems like the script went through a whole bunch of writers, and I’m gonna say I don’t think they were even shooting on the final draft.

You probably weren’t gonna be watching it anyway, but just in case, forget this crap. Lasse Hallström used to make good movies, he even had some great ones in him. His recent work though: Salmon Fishing In the Yemen, The Hundred-Foot Journey, yikes. Find some better scripts dude, cos the recent material you’ve been getting has not, not, not been giving you any favours.

A Dog’s Purpose is currently playing in UK theatres.

adogspurpose
Image courtesy of Universal

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