(director: Lasse Hallström; screenwriters: novel by W. Bruce Cameron/Cameron, Cathryn Michon, Audrey Wells, Maya Forbes, Wally Wolodarsky; cinematographer: Terry Stacey; editor: Robert Leighton; music: Rachel Portman; cast: Bryce Gheisar (Ethan), Britt Robertson (Teen Hannah), KJ Apa (Teen Ethan), John Ortiz (Carlos), Dennis Quaid (Adult Ethan), Juliet Rylance (Ethan’s Mom), Luke Kirby (Ethan’s Dad), Kirby Howell-Baptiste (Maya), Peggy Lipton (Adult Hannah), Pooch Hall (Al), Josh Gad (Dog voices); Runtime: 100; MPAA Rating: PG-13; producer: Gavin Polone; Universal Pictures/Amblin Entertainment; 2017)

“Manipulative dog-friendly drama.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Swedish-born filmmaker Lasse Hallström (“My Life As A Dog”/”Dear John”) directs this manipulative dog-friendly drama that has a dog (always voiced by Josh Gad) over five decades get reincarnated into different breeds and sexes with various owners (the dogs range from a retriever for a teen with an abusive father, a college student’s corgi, a German shepherd police dog and a St. Bernard-Australian Shepherd mix). It’s adapted from the W. Bruce Cameron 2010 novel by writers such as the author,Cathryn Michon, Audrey Wells, Maya Forbes and Wally Wolodarsky. The cutesy film slobbers over itself with sentimentality and one toothless segment after another. There’s no bite in this doggie tale, just a lot of cornball tugs at the heart and for controversy there’s a questionable claim by PETA that the police dog was killed in a water rescue scene that went wrong (an independent investigation found no wrong-doing on the set). The featured dog when not saving lives or solving crimes or doing matchmaking chores, muses over such existential human things that not even most college grads concern themselves with. If that doesn’t make you barf, you probably have the stomach for such shameless tripe. The meandering episodic film, with ethics lessons handed out at will to owners who ignore their pets, begins with the loyal retriever trying to protect Ethan (Bryce Gheisar), a promising high school football star, and in the end sequence we will meet the dog again as a mutt for the now adult recluse Ethan (Dennis Quaid). In the reincarnations in-between, the dog is the pet of a lonely Chicago policeman (John Ortiz) and a lonely college student (Kirby Howell-Baptiste).