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'A Dog's Purpose' Review: Fuck This Movie So Hard

By Rebecca Pahle | Film | January 25, 2017 |

By Rebecca Pahle | Film | January 25, 2017 |

I have reviewed a lot of bad movies for Pajiba, because TK is a vengeful, petty, Twizzler-fucking demon from hell. I reviewed the heart-warming holiday drama about a grieving father who’s gaslighted (gaslit?) by his friends. I reviewed the movie where a little boy nukes Japan for Jesus. I had to sit through Adam Sandler lustily declaring “Nerds are good at kissing, because we appreciate it more” before macking on Michelle Monaghan despite the fact that he has not brushed his teeth that day.

None of these compare to A Dog’s Purpose, a movie where a puppy is taken away to be euthanized in the first three minutes. Really, that’s all you need to know.

But I think you’re probably morbidly curious, so I’ll continue.

If you managed to sit through the trailers (which I was barely able to do, and then I got assigned the whole movie, THANKS TK), you might be under the impression that the plot of A Dog’s Purpose is something like this: Dog meets boy. Dog lives good life. Dog then dies and is reincarnated several times, learning a new lesson each go-around. Eventually, dog ends up back in the care of boy, now old and curmudgeonly. Using all that he’s learned up to this point, dog is able to teach old man to enjoy live again. Cue credits.

You’d be wrong, because there’s even not that much to it. The dog, initially named Bailey (and voiced throughout the movie by Josh Gad) does indeed spend a happy lifetime in the care of Ethan (first Bryce Gheisar, then square-jawed, 20-something “teen” K.J. Apa, playing Archie in the CW’s new Riverdale). The story here is pretty generic and doesn’t go much of anywhere or do much of anything: An alcoholic father, a lost football scholarship, a relationship with One Who Got Away Hannah (Tomorrowland’s Britt Robertson, who really needs to get a better agent). Eventually, Bailey dies of old age and subsequently cycles through a few more lives. There’s not really an overarching plot, with none of the stories being connected in any meaningful way. It’s boring. For the last 20 minutes or so, Bailey does end up with an older Ethan (Dennis Quaid), but there’s not much to that, either; Bailey realizes Ethan is lonely, finds the now-widowed Hannah and reunites them, everyone is happy, roll credits.

Well. “Everyone is happy” except the people watching this movie. Because, see, there’s not really a story to latch onto here. There’s not much by way of adventure or excitement. And there’s not much comedy, despite the movie’s intermittent attempts—the closest it comes to a joke is when Bailey digs up the family’s cat’s corpse (LOL?) or repeatedly remarks that he can smell when people are (basically) horny (“a sweaty smell”). Oh, and then there’s Bailey’s third life, a female police dog, quipping “I always hated getting shot. This was definitely the worst shot I ever got” AFTER SHE GETS SHOT.

With the absence of all these things that would normally draw in audience interest, the number one emotional takeaway from A Dog’s Purpose is that, holy shit, some terrible things happen to dogs. Let me run it down for you.

*In the first three minutes, puppy!Bailey is taken away to be euthanized. That’s how the reincarnation is established.
*Within three minutes of that, Bailey’s second incarnation is locked in a hot car and almost dies.
*Times Bailey dies of old age: Two
*Times Bailey falls in love with another dog, who is subsequently taken away to the vet and never returns, much to Bailey’s confusion: One
*It’s worth mentioning again: Dog is shot and killed.
*Dog is adopted by a white trash couple who chain it to a tree in their front yard. The world’s saddest montage shows the dog being left there for years, in all sorts of weather, never allowed off the chain to play or given much by way of human contact. Eventually, the dog is abandoned on the side of the road.

That’s what you get from A Dog’s Purpose: emotional torture porn of the canine variety. Its sole purpose is cheap emotional manipulation. Our dialogue’s shit and our character development is non-existent, but you know what’ll always tug at an audience’s heartstrings? Mistreated dogs. Some good things happen to Bailey in his many lives, too, but it’s the bad stuff that has the most impact, because DID I MENTION THE FACT THAT THIS DOG IS SHOT, ABANDONED, AND DIES FOUR TIMES? Does director Lasse Hallström (yes, the director’s name is “Lasse”) succeed in crafting an emotionally affecting movie? Yes. But Uwe Boll could direct this shit and I’d still tear up. Doesn’t mean it’s not still hacky and cheap. And Bailey’s uncomprehending optimism makes it even more wrenching. The police dog’s last words before bleeding out: “I need to rest? Can I just sleep in your bed?”



A Dog’s Purpose is fucked up. That’s what it comes down to. It is a bad, misguided, sadistic shitfest of the first order. I don’t even know who it’s supposed to be for. It’s not fun enough for kids, it’s too cutesy for adults, and dog fans of all ages are apt to be left with a severe case of shellshock. There is something seriously wrong with this movie, and I never want to think about it again as long as I live. Tell TK he can go fuck himself.

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