Review: ‘A Dog’s Purpose’ is Too Much Pupper Schmaltz

If you’re someone who’s willing to risk life and limb to photographically preserve the souls of random canine passers-by on your Instagram, it’s likely that A Dog’s Purpose would appeal to that level of fanaticism. But even so, sometimes too much is too much, and this exercise in pupper schmaltz has definitely hit my ceiling. You’ll probably find more emotionally nuanced pet clickbait around.

Simultaneously pawing away at my blubbering heart and testing the patience of my critical faculties, Lasse Hallström’s obscenely drippy film offers the fantastical notion of a dog (voiced by Josh Gad) discovering the meaning of its existence over several decades of birth, death and incarnation. It’s feelgood fare that actually makes you feel icky just for how mercilessly calculated and telegraphed each of its tear-jerking beats are.

A Dog’s Purpose begins innocuously enough as a ’60s-era boy-meets-dog tale straight from the Lassie playbook, following the budding love affair between 8-year-old Ethan (Bryce Gheisar) and his golden retriever Bailey. The baton is then passed onto teenaged Ethan (Riverdale’s KJ Apa), whose high-school life is crammed with hackneyed drama: meet-cute romance, parents separating and a house fire that leaves his promising football career shattered.

Bailey’s subsequent incarnations — German Shepherd, Welsh Corgi and Bernese Mountain Dog — aren’t afforded the same level of attention, as the film races through, and repeats its dog-is-cute-then-dog-dies schtick to reach a predictably spirit-boosting conclusion. There’s some earnestly intentioned statement about the empathetic nature of dogs in all of this, but A Dog’s Purpose is more a saccharine testament to the sheer power of sad puppy eyes to clobber you into submission.

‘A Dog’s Purpose’ Movie Times