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What to know: This film will make you laugh, cry and question the true purpose of life.
Recommended age 8-18
100 minutes
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There are many movies that focus on a dog's world but not about what the dog is actually thinking. A Dog's Purpose does the opposite, by focusing on the dog and a dog's place in the world. This perfect story will make you laugh, cry and question the true purpose of life. The movie sets out to inspire the audience and does it by taking the main character through an emotional and long adventure filled with comedy, drama and even some romance.

The story begins with a happy puppy entering the world, ready to play and explore. Sadly for the puppy, his life doesn't last long. After passing away, the puppy is surprised to come back as a puppy again. This time in a different body. Soon, he becomes a family pet named Bailey and specifically, is a best friend to the son of the family. As time passes, the boy grows up and heads to college. Bailey passes away once again, but this time he's happy to have lived a long life with a human he loves. Bailey comes back again and again and again. Each time Bailey comes back as a different dog breed (or gender) with a different life purpose. Finally, after many lives, he realizes that his main purpose is to spend time with the people he loves and to help them in their lives as much as he can.

Only a few movies truly make me cry and, within the first 15 minutes, this became one of them. This was done not by blasting sad emotions with sad music at the viewer, but by building a real connection with the characters. The story doesn't put a smile on everything. It is realistic and very sad and depressing at times. People who own dogs, like me, will never look at their dogs the same way. They will look at them as true companions and family members.

I really enjoyed the voice-over (Josh Gad) for Bailey and his other incarnations. His voice-over work is phenomenal and suits all the dogs in the story so well. The cinematography is also spot on. It often shows specific scenes from the dog's perspective which is a genius idea and truly allows one to have a deeper connection with the character. The entire cast evokes emotion and keep a complex story entertaining.

The scene where Bailey/Ellie swim in the water is my favorite because it is an action-packed scene that is exciting but also very sad. Another reason to bring up this scene is that it is the scene that has elicited accusations of animal abuse by some animal activists. In this scene, you can clearly see the dog is not in distress. The dog is happy and greatly enjoying the activity as is the case for almost every single scene in the film. Throughout, you see things happening to the main character which would make anyone want to adopt a dog. The message of dog adoption is so strong that it makes me wonder why animal rights activists are boycotting this film when it does nothing but hurts this wonderful and inspirational story to come out and support animal adoption. A Dog's Purpose will inspire hundreds, if not thousands, to go out and adopt dogs to take care of and love.

A Dog's Purpose has some brutally sad facts about the world around us which would be too much for younger kids. There is also mild violence in several scenes, so I recommend it for ages 9 to 18. I give it 5 out of 5 stars for its beautiful message about the purpose of life, its call to action for dog adoption, spectacular voice-over work, emotional acting and unique cinematography. It opens in theaters nationwide on January 27, 2017 so, go check it out.

Reviewed by Gerry O., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 14

This charming, appealing film had me on a rollercoaster of emotions. It has many beloved scenes that captivates the audience's heart such as when Ethan saves Bailey from a steaming heat car and adopts the dog as his new companion. Additionally, throughout multiple scenes you see the heartwarming relationship and bond between dogs and their owners. For example, Maya has such a strong bond with her dog that the dog can guess what she is thinking.

The storyline of this film is about a caring dog (Josh Gad) following him through several lifetimes with several different humans as he discovers the purpose and the reason for his journey. Throughout his several lifetimes, every time he is reincarnated he comes back as a different breed, in a different decade and with a new owner. Although he meets several different owners and faces a different experience every time he is reincarnated, he is mostly impacted by Ethan (Bryce Gheisar) who is a young caring boy that rescues him. As Ethan matures and faces the challenges of life, their relationship will be lost but they are reunited in future years.

The idea and structure of this film is very creative and rare. Great attention is paid to all the details and ideas that make up this film. My favorite concept is how it's told from the point of view and perspective of the dog. I love that you can hear the dog's thoughts as he experiences several lives. I really like that every time he reincarnates he is a different breed of dog. For example, in one life he is a male German Shepherd who works with the Chicago Police Department and in another he is a college women's companion. All these different point of views make this film great, although it might get a bit repetitious every time he is born.

The protagonist of the film, Ethan, is played by three characters as they portray his different ages. Young Ethan is played by Bryce Gheisar (Walk the Prank, The Bus Stop). Young high school football star Ethan is played by K.J Apa (Riverdale). Adult Ethan is played by Dennis Quaid (Vantage Point, Frequency, The Day After Tomorrow).

Although this film is told by a dog and is about his experiences, there are several morals and messages that the viewer can take in. As the dog experiences five different decades from the 60s to the 90s, it tries to find its calling in life. This can be reflected in society, in the sense that each and everyone of us has a mission here on earth. Just like the loveable dog trying to figure out its journey and purpose, people also can relate to the goal of discovering what their calling is. Teenagers can particularly relate to this as they are maturing and discovering who they are as a person. I personally can connect with this moral and my philosophy in life is in sync with it - we all have a special unique purpose in this world.

I give A Dog's Purpose 5 out of 5 stars. It's a great film to watch with your friends and family. Its perfect for ages 6 to 18. Young adults and adults will also enjoy watching this heartfelt film about man's best friend. This film comes out January 27, 2017 so, go check it out.

Reviewed by Maria G., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 17.

see youth comments
A devoted dog (Josh Gad) 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 (Bryce Gheisar). 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.
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