Review / ‘A Dog’s Purpose’ (PG) **

WRITER W Bruce Cameron adapted his own novel into the screenplay for director Lasse Hallstrom to turn into this movie. Hallstrom has made more effective films. And, as so often happens, it’s the writing that lets the result down.

Adolescent Ethan brings a retriever puppy into his family and calls him Bailey. As a young adult, Ethan falls for Hannah but the relationship folds. Fade to black.

In Chicago, a female german shepherd called Ellie is undergoing K9 training. His handler weeps when, after rescuing a teenager at risk of drowning, Ellie dies in action. Fade to black.

Student Maya gets a corgi that she calls Toby. Toby complains that his short legs don’t allow him to run fast. He falls in love with Roxie, a much taller dog. Maya marries and raises kids who treat Toby badly. He gets depressed when Roxie has to be put down. Fade to black.

Abandoned St Bernard Buddy passes a woman whose scent is vaguely familiar. Following her brings him back to the farm where bachelor Ethan recognises Hannah, now a widowed grandmother. Buddy tricks Ethan into playing a game he played with Bailey in earlier days. Run closing credits.

Hallstrom’s telling of Bailey’s reincarnations is well enough done. But if you’ve ever owned a dog, it’s likely that you have seen it looking intently at you and wondered what is going on in its mind. Food? No, just eaten. Voiding body wastes? No, just done that. Show of affection? No, too physically distant at that moment. The human is baffled.

People love their dogs, but humans’ ability to understand them completely is limited. At best, dogs can be trained to behave as humans direct. One thing is indisputable. The stars of “A Dog’s Purpose” are the dog trainers, not writer, director or other humans. And even trainers will admit, they don’t know for sure what the animals are thinking. How that must frustrate the pooches!
At Hoyts, Capitol 6, Palace Electric and Limelight

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