Universal Pictures 2 hours PG
This is a sappy and predictable story about dogs as told from several dogs’ perspectives. The dogs are cute and Josh Gad does a good job as the voice of several kinds of puppies as they are scooped up as they get owners and become part of different families. As each dog dies, we follow as they are reborn as a different breed. That causes a few good laughs but there is sadness, too.
There has been much controversy over how one of the dogs was treated filming of this film. The one playing the dog from the Chicago Canine Patrol was shown in a video tape obviously upset at having to jump into rushing water. It was explained that the dog had rehearsed from one side of the pool but the scene was to be shot from the other side, in unfamiliar territory, and the dog freaked. We’re told that the dog was not mistreated at all and calmed down. But dog lovers who saw the incident objected using social media and it became a huge issue.
The filmmakers, including star, Dennis Quaid, said he never saw harm to any dog or trainers doing anything wrong at any time. But that was not his scene. Director Lasse Halström (The Hundred Foot Walk, Salmon fishing in the Yemen. Chocolat) said he would investigate the incident on video that was leaked. The controversy caused cancellation of the U. S. Premiere.
There is some good camerawork by Cinematographer, Terry Stacey (IElvis and Nixon, 50/50) following the dogs from their point of view. There were almost as many screenwriters as there were different breeds of dogs in this film and at times that shows. The script works with Gad’s voiceover adding color, but you pretty much know what’s going to happen along the way, especially when it comes full circle at the end.
Quaid puts in a good performance and it was fun to see Peggy Lipton (The Mod Squad, Twin Peaks) on the big screen. It’s a little overacted at times by Britt Robertson (The Longest Ride, Tomorrowland) and K.J. Apa (Riverdale) along with Juliet Rylance (American Gothic) as Ethan’s mistreated Mom and Luke Kirby (The Astronaut Wives Club) as the alcoholic bad Dad.
Some have called this film ‘Look Who’s Talking” with a dog instead of a baby. It’s a safe family film that’s a heart tugger for dog lovers. I look at it more like a Lifetime TV Special. It’s not a bad movie to see with the family, especially if you have your own furry friend. Just don’t expect too much or you might be barking up the wrong tree.