-Two controversial movies from earlier in 2017.

Sometimes a movie just warms your heart, like wrapping a warm blanket around your shoulders when watching it. I tend to like movies that are so positive and pulpy, because it provides a nice sense of escapism and optimism. What’s wrong with watching a movie just for a bunch of cute dogs?

However, A Dog’s Purpose is not that movie, a messy two hour journey that’s paced as poorly as it is directed. I half expected it to be the director’s first or second time around, and was immensely surprised to see it be Lasse Hallstrom, who has directed a handful of really famous movies. Any consistent experience that would be expected by a veteran director really doesn’t show, and regardless of any controversy about animal abuse, the movie should be avoided.

The “Dog’s Purpose” is about a dog (Josh Gad) who is constantly reincarnated as a different breed in different locations after his life cycle ends. He starts out as a lab (or retriever) with a young boy in a farm-friendly town. As the young boy who cares for him ages into a teenager (K.J. Apa) and gets his first girlfriend (Britt Robertson), the dog develops a special bond with his owner. After his death, you see him as a police dog with John Ortiz as a cop, and eventually makes his way back to his original owner, now Dennis Quaid. The movie attempts to be a full-circle in that the dog shows a special attachment toward his owners, and making them feel better emotionally.

The movie has cute elements, and if you’re a dog lover, there’s stuff for you to latch onto here. I originally skipped the movie in theaters because of the animal abuse allegations, but after they were disproved, I knew I needed to at least give this movie a chance. That’s really the advice I can give going into this movie, I recommend the audience give it a chance, because it’s constant melodramatic tone and focus on the various dogs may engulf friendly viewers. It got me emotionally invested on a few occasions, but the pacing is just too inconsistent to recommend, especially once you begin analyzing the pretty sub-par performances throughout each miniature segment of the plot. You may learn what the dog’s purpose is, but you’re better off doing a google search of cute dog pictures than sitting through two hours of a movie that is meant to be just as emotionally manipulative.

A Dog’s Purpose (2017)

Genre: Drama

Director: Lasse Hallstrom (What’s Eating Gilbert GrapeThe Cider House RulesChocolat)

Starring: Dennis Quaid, Josh Gad, Britt Robertson, K.J. Apa, and John Ortiz

RT Score: 29%

I captioned this rental review as movies that were controversial, and although many people may not know exactly what the issue was with Matt Damon’s The Great Wall, it was actually the very presence of Matt Damon that caused problems. He acts as an American in a mostly Asian movie, directed by the acclaimed Zhang Yimou. Although everyone involved in the production wanted it to be Matt Damon as a ethnicity different than a majority of the stars, it did cause a small-scale whitewashing controversy that was undone when the film got bad reviews. Overall, regardless of how you feel about the need to put a white actor in an Asian production, this is terrible film.

Matt Damon is a bit of a roamer who ends up in a military camp in China, and offers his services to defend the Great Wall from supernatural threats, such as powerful monsters that multiply faster than cliched zombies. He has his buddy (Pedro Pascal) along for the ride, and is directed by a powerful military director (Jing Tian) who leads a swan-dive team of swordsmen who float in the air and attempt to kill the monsters with long-range weapons. Because Matt Damon appears to have the inside scoop on how to defeat them (he’s battled them during his various journeys), they accept him into their service.

Overall, the computer generated imagery is shoddy, the action scenes choppy, and any twists in the story-line are too inconsequential for it to matter if they’re predictable or not. This is the ultimate exercise in attempting to watch a movie that will likely hold no interest for you, be overlong and bloated in its run time, and probably lack the requisite excitement to establish a third act climax that is enough to forgive the film’s character flaws. Sure, the performances are fine, but there’s not enough substance to latch onto for it to matter. This is one of the weakest science fiction films of recent memory, and it’s not even remotely surprising that the film proceeded to lose almost a hundred million dollars. It wasn’t that the substance couldn’t be interesting, it’s that the film lacked the ambition to do something special with it.


The Great Wall (2017)

Genre: SciFi/Fantasy

Director: Zhang Yimou (HeroJu Dou, Raise the Red Lantern, House of Flying Daggers)

Starring: Matt Damon, Jing Tian, Pedro Pascal, Andy Lau, and Willem Dafoe

RT Score: 35%