Bruce Gheisar K. J. Apa Britt Robertson John Ortiz Dennis Quaid Josh Gad Peggy Lipton
This movie would fulfill the most basic fantasy/wish of a dog owner with a devoted pet—probably of any species. It’s a heartwarming story of an entertaining dog (voice-over by Josh Gad so we know everything the dog is thinking) that is reincarnated four times. Pet owners range from a small boy named Ethan (Gheisar) who grows up with “Bailey” until he goes to college and experiences a tragedy; to a policeman, Carlos (Ortiz), who uses “Ellie” as a search and rescue police dog; to a young woman for whom “Tino” helps find love and family; to an irresponsible couple who abandon him; and finally again to owners who truly care for him.
Screenwriter Cathryn Michon and Director Lasse Hallström (The Cider House Rules, Dear John, The 100-Foot Journey) manage to keep what could be an overly sentimental sop engaging and interesting, even to those who are more neutral toward dogs and other animals. The story, based on W. Bruce Cameron’s novel, is thoughtful, has some substance, and realistically portrays all kinds of families. It doesn’t shy away from alcoholism or neglect, for instance, as it shows wholesome, loving, and thoughtful groups.
Gad’s voice-over is perfectly rendered, and is perhaps the best part of the film in making dog-talk plausible and giving food for thought to humans. Gheisar, as the small boy Ethan and K. J. Apa as the teenager make us care about Ethan and experience his joys and pain. Robertson as Hannah is gracious and fun across time (later, by Lipton) as we see her in different roles. Quaid seems perfectly fit for his character, the grown-up Ethan years later, evolving into someone who makes sense, given what has happened to him in his life—a little crusty and doubtful.
This is a film for dog/pet owners who derive special pleasure from knowing and caring for them. Others may find it too sweet, sentimental, and fanciful; it all depends on how you feel about pets, I guess.
Reincarnations of dog.