Bailey (Josh Gad) is a dog. Every time he dies, he comes back in another dog’s body. In one life, he is found as a stray and taken by two men who leave him in their truck on a hot day. Just as he is about to die, a boy named Ethan (Bryce Gheisar) spots him. His mother (Juliet Rylance) breaks the window to save Bailey and they take him home.
Ethan and his mom convince his father (Luke Kirby) to let them keep Bailey under the condition that Ethan must take care of her. Ethan and Bailey are inseparable. When Ethan (K.J. Apa) is in high school, Bailey follows him to football practice and on dates with his girlfriend Hannah (Britt Robertson).
In Bailey’s next life, he comes back as a female German shepherd named Ellie. As Ellie grows she is trained to be a police dog. Carlos (John Ortiz), Ellie’s human partner, sees her only as a police dog and nothing more. Ellie breaks through Carlos’ resistance to see her as a pet and they begin to really bond.
Bailey then comes back as Buddy. Buddy eventually finds his way to the now grown Ethan (Dennis Quaid). Now that they are reunited, Buddy tries to find some way to get Ethan to realize that he is Ethan’s old dog Bailey.
NOTE: There has been some controversy about A Dog’s Purpose. The complaint is that at least one of the dogs may or may not have been forced against its will to perform stunts that may have been unsafe. American Humane, the company responsible for overseeing the animals on the film investigated the claims and issued a statement saying that this was not the case and the animals were treated properly. I am giving American Humane and the cast and crew of the film the benefit of the doubt and assuming they acted responsibly.
A Dog’s Purpose takes you on the journey of a dog who is trying to find the purpose of life. Is it to just have fun or to help people or simply just be there? As Bailey travels from life to life, he takes with him the memories of his past lives. Some of these are quick snapshots, not giving us a chance to get to know the dog. However, in the scenes where we spend time with Bailey and his/her owners, you get a chance to connect with the dog and the people in its life. These are the times that will pull at your emotions when it is time for Bailey to move on. This is where the film excels. The development of all the characters in these scenes are well done. You see the connections and how important the dog is to its owners.
While it may be difficult to explain to younger children, A Dog’s Purpose is a good family film that will make you go home and give your dog a little more attention. You may find yourself getting a little misty eyed at times, but it is a feel good movie in the end. Again, I’m assuming the allegations against this film have been properly investigated and found untrue when I recommend taking your family to see the film. If that changes, I will update this review.