The narrator is the dog himself, Bailey, voice by Josh Gad, the voice of Olaf in "Frozen" and who now plays Gaston’s gay assistant in “Beauty and the Beast”. Ethan becomes the star quarterback in his school’s football team and Bailey acts as a bridge for him to get to know his girlfriend, Hannah (Britt Robertson). He’s bound for a college football scholarship but an injury derails his dreams.
The episode ends with Bailey growing old and passing, to be reborn as a female German Shepherd named Ellie, who works with the K9 Division of the Chicago Police Department. She becomes the partner of a lonely cop, Carlos (John Ortiz), and dies tragically after rescuing a kidnapped girl. This is the episode that became controversial because the dog reportedly got so scared in doing that stunt where it jumps into the raging waters of a dam to save the girl.
The dog is then reincarnated as a Corgi named Tino, who provides company for a shy student, Mia (Kirby Baptiste), and becomes the matchmaker for her classmate, Al (Pooch Hall). After Tino, the dog returns as Buddy, a mix of Shepherd and St. Bernard who is maltreated, chained to a fence and was eventually dumped.
He then ends up full circle back into the life of the now quite old Ethan (now played by Dennis Quaid) and once again becomes the reason for Ethan to be reunited to his old flame, Hannah (now played by Peggy Lipton). This can be quite cheesy but somehow, it works, and Buddy is seen trying his best to prove to Ethan that he is actually his old friend Bailey who has never forgotten him, and this apparently, to be man’s best friend, is a dog’s purpose.
If you’re a dog lover, especially if you loved previous movies about the strong bond between humans and dogs like “Marley and Me”, “My Dog Skip”, “Lassie” and “Max”, then there’s no doubt this movie is for you. But if you’re more of a cat or a pig person, skip it. Here, a dog lover will shed tears several times as the dog dies not just once, but many times.
The movie is directed by Swedish filmmaker Lasse Hallstrom who first gained fame in the 80s with “My Life as a Dog” (which is not really a movie about dogs) and 2009’s “Hachiko, A Dog’s Tale”. His acclaimed works include “What’s Eating Gilbert Grape”, “Chocolat” and “Cider House Rules”, then he made some Nicholas Sparks mushy melodramas like “Dear John” and “Safe Haven”, to which “A Dog’s Purpose” is more aligned.
Josh Gad’s voice work as the dog is quite competent as he is fully aware that the movie is seen through a dog’s eyes who gives unconditional love to its owner. In fairness to most of the human actors, they also do well. There are many heartwarming scenes and sweet sentiments that will melt the hearts of dog lovers, especially those who are willing to believe that they can meet their old dog’s soul in another dog down the line.