A Dog’s Purpose movie review: This will end in Tears

A Dog's Purpose movie review

I was left forever scarred on an otherwise uneventful day in the early 90s. Our science teacher had just told us about the space exploration and a little Russian mutt, Laika

In fiction or in factual realms, there’s nothing more sentimental than the death of a dog.

A Dog’s purpose, Lasse Hallström’s third outing with dogs, plays on the same emotion. Not once, not twice but four times over! Despite having everything the family movie template calls for this maudlin story doesn’t quite take off with the Frisbee like say, Hachi: A Dog’s Tale.

A Dog’s Purpose Movie Review

Based upon the bestseller of the same name, A Dog’s Purpose, is told from the perspective of Bailey (voiced by Josh Gad), a dog who is reborn five times over to discover his purpose. However the one life he seems to be hung upon is the one with a boy named Ethan who lovingly calls him ‘Bailey, Bailey, Bailey, Bailey, Bailey’ as they roam in pristine countryside.

a dogs purpose movie
Bailey lives a fairly happy life and plays a key role in his boy’s life. Even finding the latter, the love of his life…

The cruel hands of fate (in our case, of course the screenwriter) lead us from one dog death to the other. But Bailey keeps coming back, reborn repeatedly into different bodies and genders, retaining his consciousness and memories from past lives. And it is through this reincarnation cycle that Bailey encounters many humans, some good, some grey and some downright bad as he realizes his true calling.

The screenplay is steeped with deaths that we know are coming, that we are told of long before they unfold. These deaths, grim fleeting glimpses, relate to all those who have ever lost a pet.

The movie certainly has its moments especially when Bailey turns a tad philosophic, consider this:

“Humans do things dogs don’t understand. Like leave.”

Isn’t this the way of things, with life as with love, we move on? One moment we have held close all that runs deep in breath and blood and the next upon dissection — by death or other devices,  we are pottering about our errands as usual.

Dogs are different.

Also See: The legend of Red Dog

Movie review A Dog's Purpose

They don’t know this concept of moving on. Think of Hachiko, what made him wait for close to a decade? Till death. Our concept of practicality may steer as far as it can but deep down isn’t this the idea of love we look out for in fiction?

movie review a dog's purpose

 “What is the meaning of life? Are we here for a reason? Is there a point to anything?”, ponders Bailey all through the reel.

Meanwhile the dogs keep on dying. Before we are done grieving for one, the movie takes us right to another puppy and another death. The death of third dog in particular, a police dog named Ellie, who falls fatally to a bullet shot as she valiantly saves her owner’s life, leaves you looking for tissue papers.

Over half a century and nearly as many incarnations, Bailey’s learns what he calls a dog’s purpose:

  1. “Have fun!”
  2. “Save the ones you can save”
  3. “Lick the ones you love”
  4. “Just be here now”

One of the very first sights that greet you at Stockholm’s Arlanda airport is the ‘Welcome to my hometown‘ photo exhibition. Lively portraits of Ingmar Bergman, Björn Borg, Alfred Noble and other distinguished Swedes welcoming you to Sweden.  Keep walking and you’d come across the black and white image of Lasse Hallström, the director of ABBA videos, Cider House Rules and My Life as a dog. He may have stumbled with A Dog’s Purpose but I hope he makes a dog movie again and like at the airport wall, stays perched atop the dog directors of Hollywood.

For now, perhaps the best that this movie does is to provide parents an idea to comfort children traumatized by death of pets in life or in movies, “See, Bailey didn’t die. Dogs never die. They are reborn, as other dogs, and they live happily ever after with their humans.”

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A year later – Remembering the dog who loved me

the dog who loved me
Bear is forever…

The month of May earmarks a year since Kaalicharan passed away.  The world as they say went on spinning, days to months, months to year. And with stoic resignation, I too wandered far and away, never arriving anywhere.

She was the dog who knew me.

The dog who loved me

trevi fountain dog
I met Leo, the dog, last winter in Rome. Unlike the troop of tourists plopping coins in Trevi fountain, there he was ruminating for what seemed an undue long for a dog’s attention span.

There are doors that will not open, locks so rusted that they only rattle and yet as I type this, I can only imagine if Leo is still by the fountain, wishing for God knows what. But then, do dogs have a god?

I’m just a dog at Trevi fountain but
the djinns at Ferozshah Kotla know my name
Cathedrals have seen the carcass I’ve become
and the Vatican has heard my wails
Shrines have seen my paw marks
and I’ve trampled at temple queues
Mecca, I’d have prayed in,
if it welcomed dogs
And someday if you happen to visit Paris
you’d see your name on a lock in Pont De l’Archeveche
I’ve wished upon gods, old and new
Thrown the very last coin I had in the Ganges
wished upon every shooting star
(and when I couldn’t find one, I’ve wished for stars to fall)
all to find a god that would return me, you.

At the backpacker’s hostel in Rome, I came across the writing on the wall, literally: There are only two possible stories ― a man goes on a journey or a stranger come to town.

May be if I stayed a little longer, Leo would have whispered, “No matter where you go, boy. You take your wantonness with you.”

Also read: For those who have lost a dog… 

I miss you my little bear. One of these days, I’ll see you on the other side…

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