I immediately read "A Dog's Purpose" by W. Bruce Cameron when it was first published in 2010. Because I wouldn't shut up about it, David read it, then our daughter. We all loved this book and we were thrilled when we heard it was being made into a movie.
Written from the dog, Bailey's (voiced by Josh Gad) perspective, this wonderful premise of a dog being reincarnated over and over until he finds his purpose, is nothing short of brilliant. The book spent 52 weeks on the New York Times Bestseller List, so that is a definite indication of how unbelievably popular it was --- and is, still.
However, when Cameron, along with four other screenwriters, transitioned his written word to film, much of the cleverness --- and poignancy --- got lost. "A Dog's Purpose", the book, makes the reader laugh, cry, celebrate --- especially if you're a bona fide dog lover. "A Dog's Purpose", the movie, has some of that, but not nearly enough.
And, as huge dog lovers ourselves --- our little guy Kirby is simply the sweetest ever --- it is difficult not to be disturbed by the accounts of animal abuse which took place during filming. And the saddest part is that the scene in question could easily have been reworked or deleted altogether. That decision lies squarely with the director, Lasse Hallström. As far as I'm concerned, scrapping that sequence would not have affected the impact of the film.
This controversy will --- and should --- hurt "A Dog's Purpose" at the box office. The movie never really captures the essence of the book. After looking forward to this adaptation for months, "A Dog's Purpose" is sadly disappointing.
Opinion: Don't Bother!
If you read the runaway best selling book "A Dog's Purpose" by W. Bruce Cameron, you may be just a bit disappointed in the film version. I actually read the book in two days. I literally could not put it down, blubbering my way through it --- no shame or embarrassment here. But I suspected that the conversion from written page to silver screen would suffer in conveying the depth of emotions Cameron's readers felt.
Director Lasse Hallström has helmed a plethora of fine movies, including "The Cider House Rules", "Chocolat", "What's Eating Gilbert Grape" and "Salmon Fishing in the Yemen" to name a few. As a stand alone movie, "A Dog's Purpose" is decent entertainment.
And special kudos to Josh Gad who voices Bailey and all the dogs who follow. If that's confusing --- how is it that the same voice can be applied to multiple dogs --- you need to know the premise of the story. Simply put, Bailey eventually dies, only to be reincarnated as a different species, and with different owners, but he's still Bailey.
SPOILER ALERT: This sets up the most emotional aspect of the film, when Buddy must convince Ethan that he really is Bailey, Ethan's beloved pet who died many years earlier. Dennis Quaid conveys the right amount of puzzlement and ultimate recognition in this sequence. It's the single most powerful episode in the movie.
"A Dog's Purpose" is not without its flaws. In one early scene, young Ethan (Bryce Gheisar) and his mother (Juliet Rylance) stumble upon Bailey, clearly in distress, locked in a pickup truck in extreme heat. But instead of trying to locate the vehicle's owner first, his mother decides to smash the window, an act that didn't ring true for me.
"A Dog's Purpose" is well done. It's suitable for children 10 and up, especially in its unabashed love of dogs while showcasing the people who unconditionally love their four-legged companions.
Opinion: See It Now!