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Title: A Dog's Purpose

Movie: :4stars:
Video: :4stars:
Audio: :4stars:
Extras: :2stars:

HTS Overall Score:76

You already know what you’re getting into when you’ve seen the trailer for “A Dog’s Purpose” just by watching the trailer. My wife and I looked at each other in theater when the first trailer was played and were both instinctually aware that we would be bawling our eyes out when I reviewed this. Yup, you got it. The film is a fluffy, tear jerking, heartwarming, dramedy that has just the right of amount of happy fluffball sugar to have you reaching for the Kleenex and complaining about all the stinking onions that are being cut somewhere close. “A Dog’s Purpose” is base off of the book of the same name by W. Bruce Cameron, and brought to the big screen thanks to Lass Holstrom, who seems to have a big thing for making sweet and emotion filled dog stories (he did both “Hachi: A Dog’s Story” and 1985’s “My Life as a Dog”). The biggest claim to fame for the movie is a bit of controversy that stemmed when an animal rights group posted a camera phone clip of the trainers looking like they were forcing the dog to do a water stunt that she didn’t want to do (it was the German Shepherd who plays Ellie the K-9 unit dog) just before theatrical release, and the internet was in a furor about animal abuse. Well, luckily the story has been debunked my multiple sources and it was confirmed that what was shown was nothing but a highly-localized clip that had very little context and a LOT of speculation (which is what most of these “news” clips of camera phone captures usually turn out when you investigate further). However, it didn’t seem to hurt the box office that much as it made $185,000,000 on a $22,000,000 budget.

Sadly, I didn’t have time to see the film in theaters, and I was REALLY eager to watch “A Dog’s Purpose” when it came out on home video. Well, pop the film in, grab my two canine munchkins and the rest is history. The story very obviously stars one single dog’s perspective, except this dog has the ability to “reincarnate” by the film’s rules. He starts out as a young pup that barely gets a start in life, only to reawaken as a Red Retriever who gets adopted by a young boy named Ethan (Bryce Gheisar as an 8-year-old, and K.J. Apa as a teenager) and given his first name, Bailey. Bailey and Ethan are simply inseparable buddies, with Bailey’s internal dialog (voiced by a very affable sounding Josh Gad) happily narrating their excursions together. However, not all of their adventures were happy. Ethan is on his way to a full college football scholarship when a tragic fire ends up leaving the boy with a broken leg and his dreams shattered. After that Ethan is a changed young man, shunning his child hood sweetheart, Hannah (Britt Robertson) and bitterly retreating into himself. As is the case with dogs, they don’t live as long as we do and Bailey has to shuffle off his mortal coil amongst loving owners.

Bailey then wakes up as a female German Shephard and has to ponder the meaning of her NEW life knowing what she’s learned from Ethan. Now Bailey, or I should now call her Ellie, is a K-9 unit police dog and her purpose is a little more restricted and focused. However, that same sweet soul of Bailey is at the heart of this new body, and she finds out that her new owner needs a friend as well. After Ellie is forced to leave this world, we wake up once again as a male. This time a little Corgi named Tino who gets adopted by a young college student who’s in need of a friend as well. Loved, adored, and fully aged, Tino has to follow his other bodies and slip away once more, only to wake up as a fluffy little guy who ends up on the raw end of life for once. Chained to a tree and left out in the cold he is mistreated and ignored until the scumbag owner decides to let him off on the side of the road. Cold, hungry, and alone, our affable little pup wanders his way through the farms around town until he suddenly catches a sniff of something familiar. A smell that brings back memories of a life many many years ago. Following that smell brings him finally back full circle. A farmhouse with many familiar smells and memories, including an adult man who’s still missing his childhood love and his childhood dog. However, as happy as he is to see Ethan once more (now played by Dennis Quaid), Bailey notices that Ethan is still not recovered from his childhood, and needs the one thing that everyone needs to help them get back on their feet. An ever-loving companion.

“A Dog’s Purpose” had me clutching my own dogs pretty much the entire film and snuffling into fur and tissue paper as we watch the sweet little pup make friends with everyone he meets. The structure is simple and very predictable, but Lasse Holstrom does a good job at never wavering from the family friendly dramedy framework that he puts up, allowing us to indulge in the simple naivete of a story told from the dog’s point of view. Bailey loves his humans, his world, and while he adores and wants to give it his best, the simple dog mind doesn’t always understand everything, and that’s part of the adorable charm. The film is well acted and well done from a technical point of view, but what makes it really so enjoyable is Josh Gad’s affable voice acting for Bailey/Ellie/Tino/Buddy. His voice is warm and inviting, and there’s always this sense of childlike wonder and amazement at everything that goes on. If you’re a dog owner a great sense of humor can be found from all of the antics and mishaps that Bailey and gets in, as I know I’ve watched my own little munchkins do the same things that he did (we don’t have a collapsed table, but my desk papers have been ravaged many times, and many a kiss shared between my wife and I have had a whimpering muzzle and tongue interjected between our faces as they try to get their own attention).

There’s some problems with the film, mainly to do with that it’s not AS deep as some of the other dog films like “Hachi” or even “Old Yeller”. It’s a light, fluffy, sugary tale that’s main appeal comes from the fact that you want to coo over Bailey and feel all warm and fuzzy inside. That means certain storytelling aspects don’t always work, and the last 20 minutes where Bailey reveals WHO he is to his old owner doesn’t feel as organic as it could have. That’s not me saying that the film is in any way bad, as I LOVED every second of it, but it had to be covered up by the sheer infectious joy/sadness of the rest of the movie.


Rated PG for thematic elements and some peril

Video :4stars:
“A Dog’s Purpose” is one of the many 100% digitally shot films that come out nowadays, and the results are pretty stinking good for the record. The film maintains a honey colored warmth to the color grading and is filled with copious amounts of sun drenched farming communities and brightly lit sunny days as Bailey and Ethan play together. The period piece costumes show good clarity and dimensionality, and while the time period changes to about half a century, the feel and “texture” of the movie stays startlingly similar throughout. Colors shift to a cooler blue when we’re with Ellie, and cleans up to a more natural balance by the time the pup finds his way home to his original master. Detailing is best around Ethan’s farm, as the waving grasses and green forest bushes show the most pop and clarity, especially in modern times when some of the period piece color gradings shift back to natural tones. Skin tones have a very pleasing look to them, and while being SLIGHTLY on the ruddy side, look impressively natural. Blacks are solid (although I did notice some banding) and overall I would say the picture is very cheery and inviting.

Audio :4stars:
The 5.1 DTS-HD MA track is a fairly front heavy mid (which is pretty standard fare for a pet centric dramedy), and the vocals and mains take on a majority of the heavy lifting. Dialog is clean and well defined up there in the center, and the mains show some good imaging with Bailey running under chairs, and crashing into things alongside the house as he chases the poor cat. Surrounds do get some ambient noises here and there, as well as filling out a good bit and implementing LFE response when the score is utilized. Ultimately it’s a fairly straight forward, talky heavy, film that does everything asked of it without complaining.

Extras :2stars:

• Deleted Scenes
• Outtakes
• Lights, Camera, Woof!
• A Writer's Purpose

Overall: :4stars:

“A Dog’s Purpose” does exactly what it sets out to do. It answers the question of what IS a dog’s purpose, and ticks off all the warm and fuzzy check boxes along the way. I personally loved the film and after the initial controversy wore of, many of the people that I know who were reticent about the film were as won over as I was. The story is sweet, kind, and had me crying way more often than I expected (and I knew I was going to have a hard time keeping a straight face, as I’m an enormous softy when it comes to dogs). Universal’s audio and video specs are great for the genre, and while the extras are slim, the movie itself is well worth the watch if you like a sappy family pet story. Definitely recommended.

Additional Information:

Starring: Josh Gad, Dennis Quaid, Peggy Lipton
Directed by: Lasse Hallstrom
Written by: W. Bruce Cameron, Cathryn Michon
Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1 AVC
Audio: English: DTS-HD MA 5.1, French, Spanish DTS 5.1
Studio: Universal
Rated: PG
Runtime: 100 Minutes
Blu-ray Release Date: May 2nd, 2017

Buy A Dog's Purpose On Blu-ray at Amazon

Recommendation: Definitely Recommended As a Family Watch

More about Mike

Below are my two pups who are preparing to watch "A Dog's Purpose" with me.
Both of whom were VERY intently watching the screen I might add


2,261 Posts
Thank you for your time writing this review, Mike. I'm also a dog lover and am really interested when a movie like this is released. Glad to hear it made money at the box office. That may be enough incentive for someone to follow-up with additional worthy efforts. I personally would like to see more of these on the streets!

26 Posts
I too want to see it and the dog dyeing parts will be tough, but you know he keeps coming back. I feel that our current dog is kind of a reincarnation of our dog from 5 years ago. They have a lot of the same personalty traits, but who knows for sure. This looks like a good movie for the family, I just will have to explain things to my 8 year old as the movie goes along.

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