Some melodrama stories are obviously meant to be a tearjerker. And those that involves pets, especially dogs, belongs to that kind. Naturally, that means I was wary of A Dog’s Purpose. After all, Lasse Hallström’s latest outing that involved a dog was Hachiko: A Dog’s Story. Which got me sobbing my heart out on the theatre back then. Turn out though, my worry was for naught.
After his first life ended far too quickly, a dog (Josh Gad) is reincarnated as a red retriever. He was found then by Ethan Montgomery (Bryce Gheisar) and named Bailey. Bailey soon developed a strong bond with Ethan, but still, he wondered. What is his purpose in this world?
I can’t believe I’m saying (or, technically, writing) this, but I think I would much prefer this movie if it really was a touching story about the bond between a dog and his owner(s). Like, I know that’s an integral part of the story, but I would have enjoyed it so much more and would be far more invested if I wasn’t distracted by the whole “what is my purpose as a dog” quest. I understand that it serves as a lifeline that connects all those stories, and that’s a great idea. But even without it, the stories of Bailey and Ethan, Ellie and Carlos, Tino and Maya, and even Buddy and Wendi, were more than good enough on their own. Those are meaningful stories about the relationship between a dog and its owner, about the emotional bond such relationship developed, and how they affected each other’s life. I think those were enough to coaxed viewers’ understanding so they can draw the message that suits them most. In my case, is that we’re all lonely in our own way. And that sometimes, it took an unexpected nudge for us to be able to shake it off. But that’s just me. I do believe everyone’s take out from this movie would differ according to their experiences and personality.
And that’s where A Dog’s Purpose actually excel. Telling the stories of five different dogs with four different owners through the span of few decades, it captured quite a diverse range of lives. And it’s not all sunshine and rainbow. There’s an overall vibrant and happy feeling, true, but there were also some somber moments. I suppose this is a representation of how a dog would view its live and the life of people around it. Yet it feels like a subtle way of showing that this is how we should view our life too. Focusing on the good things instead of dwelling on the negativities, and taking the best out of everything while keep on working on make our life better. Well, ours and those around us.
While that is a pleasant attitude and positive message to convey, it does have its downside. It undermined the hardship and sadness in those human’s life. I know that Ethan plays a huge part and he deserves the focus, but I just hope this movie would give more time on Carlos and Maya. Given more time, I would be able to at least care or even relate to them. And this movie would’ve hit me harder, instead of just making me shifted uncomfortably in my seat. There were touching moments that felt rather half baked. Which is such a turn off for me. Said lack of focus on people who are not Bailey (or his reincarnations) and Ethan also lessen them into two dimensional and replaceable characters. I could see how each character relate to their specific dog, and how they are the perfect fit for each other. But aside from that, there’s nothing distinctive about, well, anyone in this movie. Sans perhaps Bryce Gheisar who stole my attention with his utter adorableness (and perhaps Dennis Quaid, though it’s more because he kind of felt like discounted Richard Gere).
A Dog’s Purpose is a feel good movie that reminds me of how dogs could really be a fine companion. That a dog would cherish and adore you, and make you his whole world. It’s warm and lighthearted enough to put a smile on my face, even if it didn’t last long enough and the aftertaste faded a tad too quickly. Just watch it for the dogs, because they’re all such adorable ball of fluffs. Especially Tino. Because CORGI.
Director: Lasse Hallström. Writers: W. Bruce Cameron, Cathryn Michon, Audrey Wells, Maya Forbes, & Wally Wolodarsky. Released on: 3 February 2017 (Indonesia). Casts: Josh Gad, Dennis Quaid, K.J. Apa, Peggy Lipton, Bryce Gheisar, Kirby Howell-Baptiste, John Ortiz, Juliet Rylance, Luke Kirby.