Tuesday, 09 August 2022

'Dog's Purpose' tugs on heartstrings; 'Training Day' on TV


The animal rights group PETA has called for a boycott of “A Dog’s Purpose” as the result of the TMZ airing of a video purportedly showing mistreatment of a German Shepherd during a filming sequence.

This review is not going to wade into the controversy, leaving the issue to a reader’s discretion. I contend that, absent this debate, the film, narrated from a canine’s point of view, celebrates the virtues of man’s best friend.

“A Dog’s Purpose” posits the notion, without any sort of explanation, that a dog is reincarnated as a different breed over a period of many decades, with experiences both enriching and troubling.

What is impossible for any dog lover watching this family film is to keep dry eyes for the entire run of its 100 minutes. This film has the virtue of being a tearjerker if you don’t mind having tissues on hand.

The story begins in simpler times in suburban middle America when a young Ethan Montgomery and his mother rescue a golden retriever puppy suffering inside a hot car and adopt the pooch they call Bailey.

As Ethan (KJ Apa) turns into his high school’s star quarterback with a bright future, Bailey remains a constant companion even as Ethan finds his first romantic love with the caring Hannah (Britt Robertson).

While away at college, Ethan leaves his trusty companion at home. When the aging Bailey becomes sick, Ethan makes it to the veterinarian just in time for their final goodbye.

Thus begins the next chapter of Bailey’s life as he is reincarnated as a German Shepherd first responder with the Chicago Police Department where he is partnered with lonely cop Carlos (John Ortiz) and a new bond is forged.

Meanwhile, through the voice of Josh Gad, Bailey waxes philosophically about the meaning of life, asking questions such as “Are we here for a reason? Is there any point to any of this? And why does food taste so much better in the trash?”

There are answers to these questions, as director Lasse Hallstrom shares the heartwarming story of one devoted dog who finds the meaning of his own existence through the lives of the humans he teaches to laugh and love.

If you have seen the trailer for “A Dog’s Purpose,” you probably know the story comes full circle in the present day when the spry older Ethan (Dennis Quaid) connects with a St. Bernard mix named Buddy, and destiny seems to be realized.

TV Corner: 'Training Day' on CBS network

The CBS network effort to reboot the Denzel Washington film “Training Day” into a weekly series turns on a Los Angeles cop so unhinged and abrasive that Gene Hackman’s Popeye Doyle from “The French Connection” looks like a crossing guard in comparison.

In the series version, the concept of Denzel’s training officer for a rookie cop has the paradigm turned on its head, with white actor Bill Paxton as the police officer in charge of coaching a young African-American rookie in off-the-books policing methods.

Paxton’s veteran LAPD detective Frank Rourke could be charitably described as morally ambiguous and yet strangely competent in his pursuit of the city’s most dangerous criminals in his role of heading up the Special Investigation Section.

Yet, LAPD brass has taken notice of Rourke’s penchant for operating in a gray area to fight the war on crime and assigns heroic, untarnished young cop Kyle Craig (Justin Cornwell) to pose as a trainee to spy on the veteran’s unorthodox techniques.

One suspects that Frank would pursue his usual modus operandi even if he knew of Kyle’s undercover role. The twist to their relationship is that Kyle’s murdered father was an LAPD officer who had been a faithful partner with Frank in the same elite squad.

During the recent gathering of the nation’s TV critics, Bill Paxton spoke of his character’s affinity for the Western ethic, noting that he’s a “throwback” and a “gunfighter” who’s “almost been pulled out of a time capsule and put in modern times.”

A little more psychoanalysis from Paxton observed that Detective Rourke operates from an “old kind of gunslinger code of honor. He’s tough, but he’s fair.” This point might be arguable when he fire bombs a drug dealer’s house to flush out the criminals.

As a police procedural, “Training Day” is a bit formulaic and probably not as good as the rogue cop drama that was “The Shield.” However, Frank is such a conflicted, compromised character that his influence is not only corrupting but mesmerizing.

Even Frank’s personal life is hardly ideal. His girlfriend, Holly Butler (Julie Benz), is a well-connected, unapologetic Hollywood madam who happens to provide valuable intelligence. Apparently, Frank never worked with Jack Webb’s upright Detective Joe Friday, and it shows.

All in all, Bill Paxton is probably the best reason, if you must have one, to give “Training Day” a try for a few episodes even though the series seems unlikely to stir memories that parallel the original source material.

Tim Riley writes film and television reviews for Lake County News.

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