I am aware of the controversy involving this film. If you are not aware, you can read about it here. The damage has already been done, if the 2.2/10 IMDB rating is any indication. The film isn’t great but it is better than that rating.
Synopsis: A devoted dog discovers the meaning of its own existence through the lives of the humans it teaches to laugh and love. Reincarnated as multiple canines over the course of five decades, the lovable pooch develops an unbreakable bond with a kindred spirit named Ethan. As the boy grows older and comes to a crossroad, the dog once again comes back into his life to remind him of his true self.
Starring: Josh Gad, Dennis Quaid, and K.J. Apa.
Writer: W. Bruce Cameron.
Director: Lasse Hallstrom.
Running Time: 100mins
Dog or not, the film did not offer absolutely anything new or original as the storytelling will be very familiar. The film is about a dog (voiced by Gad) who for some reason lives many lives over five decades and learns the meaning of life through his interactions with various humans. He gets to live with many people but his most important relationship was with a boy named Ethan (Bryce Gheisar).
All the dog’s lives or subplots were not overly original and all came off as contrived. The film’s main focus was on the pairing of Bailey (his second life) and Ethan, seeing them grow up together and forming a bond over that time. He and his parents (Juliet Rylance and Luke Kirby) live together in rural Michigan in the 1950s. They lived the usual rural life which went the way one would expect. They were a 1950s family so they had drama which didn’t really matter. Teen Ethan (Apa) and Bailey were very close even after Ethan meeting a girl named Hannah (Britt Robertson). Their relationship was in jeopardy after a freak accident that drove them apart.
Because of the focus on his relationship with Ethan, the film glossed over his other lives as a K-9 officer named Ellie, a little companion dog named Tino, and another dog adopted by a couple who ignored him before giving him up. These subplots almost didn’t matter as they were just a detour before going back to Ethan as an adult (Quaid). These subplots were just way too heavy-handed to get emotionally invested. The outcomes never came as much of a surprise which took away their impact.
Some may be touched but the film tried too hard at playing with emotions, making it feel forced. Kids may be entertained by the dog, but it was easy to be bored at times while tuning out the emotional manipulation. It was nice to look at however, as the cinematography was well done with its many shots of the countryside and the music was good as well.
The writing may not have been the best and the acting was good throughout but those won’t matter since everyone will be transfixed on the dogs. Gad was great at voicing the dogs. His voice seemed to fit well and he was fun to watch but a lot of his writing was cheesy and the dog humor felt forced.
Overall, this was an okay drama whose heavy-handed message really got in the way of enjoying it. This just felt like it would been better as a TV movie.
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