A DOG’S PURPOSE (PG)
Love never dies, nor does the four-legged hero of Lasse Hallstrom’s emotionally manipulative family drama.
Based on the novel by W Bruce Cameron, A Dog’s Purpose bounds through decades of American history, tightly leashed to a sentimental mutt (voiced by Josh Gad), who is reincarnated as different breeds, but never forgets the smell of his first owner.
“Are we here for a reason? Is there a point to any of this?” the pooch wonders aloud.
The point to Hallstrom’s picture is to traumatise dog-loving audiences and the Oscar-nominated Swedish filmmaker encourages a deluge of saltwater tears with repetitive scenes of man’s best friend saying farewell to distraught owners.
Golden retriever Bailey (voiced by Gad) has a brief first life in the 1950s – he is captured by men from the local dog pound and put to sleep.
In his second incarnation in 1961, he is rescued from a dangerously hot truck by eight-year-old Ethan Montgomery (Bryce Gheisar) and his mother Elizabeth (Juliet Rylance).
They persuade Elizabeth’s hard-drinking husband Jim (Luke Kirby) to keep Bailey and Ethan enthusiastically trains the dog, mastering an acrobatic trick with an American football.
Ethan blossoms into a strapping high school senior (now played by KJ Apa) and falls head over heels in love with classmate Hannah (Britt Robertson).
They date with Bailey as an enthusiastic chaperone.
A near fatal incident at the family home changes the course of Ethan’s life and he is forced to say farewell to Bailey.
A Dog’s Purpose barks a familiar tune, with a couple of daring rescues that would have made Lassie wag her tail with pride.
Scenes of animal cruelty are inferred within the bounds of a PG certificate.