A DOG’S PURPOSE — Review by Martha K. Baker

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Yes, the dogs are cute, and, yes, the dogs’ boys are cute. Yes, dogs were coerced to enter freezing cold, roiling water for a scene. And, yes, “A Dog’s Purpose” avoids the tear-jerker aspect by sidesteping the problem with dead dogs in a film by having this one reincarnated. The dog’s name is Bailey. His boy Ethan convinces Mom, who convinces mean, drunken dad that the boy needs a dog. Read on…

Ethan and Bailey play and play. Bailey even leaps over Ethan’s bent back to fetch the deflated football. As Ethan grows up, his father drinks more, but his girlfriend Hannah loves Bailey, too. Then Bailey goes over the rainbow bridge but returns as a German Shepherd, a working dog. Then she dies and comes back as a Corgi. Then the dog dies and comes back as….

Well, wouldn’t want to ruin the predictable. Even with four writers the script plops along a well-trod path. The quartet includes the novelist W. Bruce Cameron on whose book the script is based. Oddly, not one of the four writers, nor any of the hundreds of people involved in making a movie, bothered to fix the grammatical mistake near the end. Dennis Quaid, who plays the grown-up Ethan, raising a glass in toast, says, “thanks from my bride and I.” Ewwww.

Peggy Lipton plays grown-up Hannah, but she is outshone by Britt Robertson, who plays teen-aged Hannah effectively to KJ Apa’s teen-aged Ethan. Josh Gad voices the four dogs’ thoughts but, frustratingly, sometimes cannot be heard over the ambient sounds. Most of the cast through the dogs’ four re-incarnations is unknown, which accents the four cute dogs. Director Lasse Hallstrom is known for his excellent work on the fine film “The Cider House Rules,” but this film is more like Nicholas Sparks, including the syrupy music by Rachel Portman. “A Dog’s Purpose” is purposeless.

I’m Martha K. Baker. From the Grand Center Arts District, this is 88.1 KDHX, St. Louis.

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