The Bock’s Office: ‘A Dog’s Purpose’ a sweet but insipid pet picture | SteamboatToday.com

The Bock’s Office: ‘A Dog’s Purpose’ a sweet but insipid pet picture

Andy Bockelman

Ethan (Bryce Gheisar) presents his new dog Bailey (voice of Josh Gad) with a collar in "A Dog's Purpose." The movie is about a dog who experiences multiple lives through reincarnation.

Rarely do we actually get in the head of our movie canines, and as lovable as Old Yeller, Benji and Air Bud were, viewers didn't always know what made them tick. But, as "A Dog's Purpose" shows, just seeing the world through their eyes doesn't intrinsically answer that question.

If you go…

"A Dog's Purpose," rated PG

Rating: 2 out of 4 stars

Running time: 120 minutes

Starring: Dennis Quaid, KJ Apa, Britt Robertson and the voice of Josh Gad

Now playing at Wildhorse Stadium Cinemas.

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In the 1960s, 8-year-old Ethan (Bryce Gheisar) finds his best friend for life in the form of a red retriever he dubs Bailey (voice of Josh Gad). The two are inseparable even when the energetic dog causes trouble for his young owner with Ethan's hothead father (Luke Kirby) or helps him as a teenager (KJ Apa) to find his first love (Britt Robertson).

Still, all good things must come to an end, and eventually Bailey succumbs to old age.

No sooner does he shuffle off his mortal coil when he is reborn as a new dog in a new decade, a process that continues again and again as the perplexed animal wonders with each form what his life really means.

Gad provides a voice that's sometimes serious sometimes goofy but consistently likable as a soul that is reincarnated as different breeds throughout the 20th century, from a female German Shepherd police dog in the 1970s partnered with a widowed cop (John Ortiz) to the overfed corgi of a lonely 1980s college student (Kirby Howell-Baptiste), experiencing both adoration and neglect throughout his lives.

Gheisar does well as his beloved first owner, wide-eyed adolescent Ethan transitioning into a stalwart teen with limitless potential who grows cynical about his future about the same time he stops spending so much time with his pet.

Dennis Quaid's bit as Ethan in middle age is nice as well as a man with many regrets finds a stray that acts suspiciously familiar.

Yeah, you know where this is heading.

Based on his body of work, director Lasse Hallström is practically incapable of making a movie that would be described as anything other than bittersweet, and the tearjerker book by W. Bruce Cameron fits his oeuvre, though no, it's no connection to Hallström's 1985 film "My Life as a Dog."

At times, the depiction of man's best friend is spot-on and achingly beautiful in showing the impact a dog can have on its owner. A flattened football shared by Ethan and Bailey also demonstrates that sometimes a game of catch can solve any problem you may have.

Some stilted acting by the humans here is forgivable in a family feature, but leaked behind-the-scenes footage of a river rescue stunt involving one of the canine stars is a depressing reminder that the film industry's attempts to cash in on innocence are rarely as wholesome as we'd like to believe.

The controversy over alleged animal abuse aside, "A Dog's Purpose" is too driven by sentiment to be any different from any "boy and his dog" movie. The hardly novel approach of having the animal in question narrate does little to answer any questions you may have had about the nature of a furry companion when the only priorities in any of his lives are food and attention.

Oh, and the scent of garbage.

Groundbreaking.

Contact Andy Bockelman at 970-875-1793 or abockelman@CraigDailyPress.com or follow him on Twitter @TheBocksOffice.

If you go…

“A Dog’s Purpose,” rated PG

Rating: 2 out of 4 stars

Running time: 120 minutes

Starring: Dennis Quaid, KJ Apa, Britt Robertson and the voice of Josh Gad

Now playing at Wildhorse Stadium Cinemas.