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A Dog’s Purpose

An Illusion Review by Joan Ellis

A Dog's Purpose

A conversation is running through the movie world about the pros and cons of seeing A Dog’s Purpose. Naysayers tend to be people who regard themselves as too sophisticated to endure a sentimental movie devoted to dogs. Consider the alternative. Imagine a theater full of parents with children, teenagers, and adults of all ages. What happens? Ripples of laughter, sighs of appreciation, silence when tears come. My suggestion: If you have ever loved a dog, chuck your doubts and go. If you disapprove of sentimentality, just stuff it and go. Chances are you’ll love it in spite of yourself.

Five scriptwriters and director Lasse Hallstrom have created a story about a dog who moves through reincarnations in four bodies and tells us about what he learns in each life. Dogs and human actors, all of them, are thoroughly on board with the premise. In his first life, Bailey (a retriever) lives with Ethan (K.J. Apa) and also gets to know Ethan’s girlfriend Hannah (Britt Robertson). His second unfolds as a German shepherd mastered by a lone policeman (John Ortiz). In his third, he is a Corgi, and his fourth – well, you’ll find out about that one. You’ll love Dennis Quaid and Peggy Lipton who create two people who have suffered without ever surrendering their dreams.

We listen to animal and human thoughts through Bailey’s four lives and we learn with great pleasure and sometimes with sadness about the interplay between them. How does each change the life of the other and what goes on while they are together. If you are a dog lover, you will love watching what Bailey, in his four selves, teaches people and what they teach him.

Much of the fun comes from sharing the movie with an audience made up of many ages. Loving a dog at some time in your life is a warm common bond. Credit an enormous number of people for making that happen. Director, cast, the dogs, and perhaps most of all, those five scriptwriters who do a terrific job on the dialogue of the dogs and their masters. All of it unfolds to a just right score assembled by music supervisor Gedney Webb.

We root for Bailey as he adjusts to life with each of his new masters. He analyzes them for us in short, often comical judgements. He is a dog looking for the purpose of his life through several lifetimes and several owners. Will there be a next round for us? If you’ve loved a dog, or loved and lost one, you’ll be happy to smile a lot, cry a little and you’ll be especially grateful to Director Lasse Hallstrom for making that happen. C’mon people, abandon your sophisticated self and enjoy the story of one fine dog working his way through several lives while looking for his purpose. There aren’t many times when you can sit in an audience of all ages that finds a movie irresistible. Try it.

Film Critic : JOAN ELLIS
Film Title : A Dog’s Purpose
Word Count : 496
Running time: 1:40
Rating : PG
Date : February 5, 2017

 

Allied

An Illusion Review by Joan Ellis

Allied

Allied is an odd mix of touching moments and bad judgement. It offers a sub/middling performance by Brad Pitt and a warm, sophisticated one by Marion Cotillard who has to put all the punch in their relationship. But let’s start at the beginning.

Premise: Intelligence officer Max (Brad Pitt) is to meet French Resistance figure Marianne (Marion Cotillard) in order to play a husband/wife team who will murder the Nazi ambassador during an elegant wartime reception in Casablanca. For just a second we wonder if there might have been an easier way for him to get there than by parachuting into the Moroccan desert.

Director Robert Zemeckis and writer Steven Knight deserve no forgiveness for what they do to this promising World War II premise. An enormous cast creates party goers, soldiers, pilots, Nazis, and dead bodies but all of them are presented in contemporary detail and language.

The focus is on Pitt and Cotillard as they try to convince the Nazis that they are married lovers. Here’s the tough part: Watching Pitt isn’t easy. He is simply too wooden to carry the romantic lead. We root for him, hoping his stone face is simply a reflection of his serious assignment, but no, he’s just plain stiff. Put a gun in his hand or a cliff to jump off and he becomes slightly more animated though still ruinously contemporary.

Cotillard, carrying the movie opposite Pitt’s cardboard figure, does a fine job of creating a spy clever enough to fool both the Allies and the Nazis. She can convey deep emotion with the slightest change in expression, and that is the key to her role here as a possible double agent.

Suddenly they are married with a baby back in wartime England where Max is faced with the accusation that Marianne may be a spy. Pitt comes alive just a little as he tries to prove her innocence.

The major problem here is cultural error in the silliest of ways. Behavior and language in the supporting cast are not remotely rooted in 1943. Example: fu….g was a mere verb back then, not the dominant adjective of today and its frequent use here plants the movie firmly in today’s culture. Nor is it possible to believe a modern poster boy as a spy in the war that shook the world more than seventy years ago. And Brad Pitt as a linguist?

It is all too obvious that Director Robert Zemeckis (age 65) and writer Steven Knight (57) haven’t bothered to do the research that could have brought WWII alive on the screen. The movie they have made has few roots in the 1940s, and that’s a shame because they had a good plot. As it is, older audience members are often close to laughter – or resentment – while younger ones are denied the chance to soak up an important piece of history. The problem? The audience really wants to like it and can’t.

Film Critic : JOAN ELLIS
Film Title : Allied
Word count : 497
Running time : 2:04
Rating : R
Date : December 4, 2016