A Dog’s Purpose Review
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Everyone who’s shared their life with a four-legged friend knows the power of a pet to get you through the ups and downs of life. And in the controversy-stirring drama A Dog’s Purpose, director Lasse Hallström explores that bond through the eyes of one loyal pup.

A Dog’s Purpose follows the adventures of one lovable canine (voiced by Josh Gad) as he goes through multiple lives with different owners in different situations. After his first, all-too-brief life, he begins to wonder what his purpose is. As he moves from one life to the next, he befriends a sweet young boy with a troubled family, he partners up with a lonely cop, he helps a college student find love, and he runs away on a solo adventure in his quest to discover the real meaning of a dog’s life.

A Dog’s Purpose attracted some unwanted attention over video footage was released showing mistreatment of animals during filming. The sad irony of the controversy is that the people who feel compelled to boycott the film over its treatment of animals are the ones who would appreciate it the most. Controversy aside, this is a film that sees the world through a dog’s eyes (and nose), exploring the joy and sadness and amazing smells of life from a different perspective. It’s often sweet and playful and lovably naive—though sometimes it’s just a little too cute, taking the dog’s lovable cluelessness a little too far.

Of course, this isn’t just a fun-loving, four-legged romp. After all, it’s the story of one dog through several lifetimes. That means that it features plenty of gratuitous puppy shots, but it also features several doggy deaths. And if you think it’s rough to watch a movie where one dog dies in the end, try one where the same dog in different forms—one with the voice of Olaf from Frozen, no less—has to die four times.

The human characters, too, tend to add even more drama and sadness to the story. So many of them are lonely or heartbroken or troubled in some way—from the cop who’s missing someone he loves to the boy with a bitter, alcoholic dad. And though the characters’ loneliness helps to show how valuable the love of a four-legged companion can be, it can also make for a pretty heavy experience.

Anyone who’s raised and loved and cared for a dog will understand this oh-so-sweet tear-jerker about canine companionship—though, of course, you’ll have to be able to overlook the controversy first. If you do, don’t forget to pack the tissues.

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