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A Dog’s Purpose and xXx: Return of Xander Cage (A PopEntertainment Movie Review)

A Dog's Purpose

A Dog’s Purpose

A DOG’S PURPOSE (2017)

Starring Britt Robertson, KJ Apa, John Ortiz, Dennis Quaid, Juliet Rylance, Luke Kirby, Kirby Howell-Baptiste, Peggy Lipton, Pooch Hall, and the voice of Josh Gad.

Screenplay by W. Bruce Cameron, Cathryn Michon, Audrey Wells, Maya Forbes and Wally Wolodarsky.

Directed by Lasse Hallström.

Distributed by Universal Pictures.  100 minutes.  Rated PG.

xXx: RETURN OF XANDER CAGE (2017)

Starring Vin Diesel, Donnie Yen, Deepika Padukone, Toni Collette, Ruby Rose, Nina Dobrev, Tony Jaa, Kris Wu, Michael Bisping, Rory McCann, Nicky Jam, Neymar Jr., Samuel L. Jackson and Ice Cube.

Screenplay by Rich Wilkes.

Directed by DJ Caruso.

Distributed by Paramount Pictures.  107 minutes.  Rated PG-13.

Two Films Take You to Emotional Extremes.

There are two new films in theaters that couldn’t be more opposite in style and intent, yet in an odd way, they have a funny kind of connection to each other. Though their genres and narratives are very different, A Dog’s Purpose and xXx: Return of Xander Cage are joined together in this review for their effect on the emotions.

Both employ overkill to induce a response from their audience. Whether this kind of overkill works to draw in crowds depends on your level of tolerance or acceptance of provocation.

Director Lasse Hallström’s A Dog’s Purpose plucks the heartstrings, then threatens to tear them asunder by drowning you in mawkish sentiment. But the dogs are at least cute, and the premise that they are reincarnated and then connected to a string of dog lives is worth pondering. And I am always glad to see craggy Dennis Quaid and Peggy Lipton become the film’s final love interest.

Based on the beloved bestselling novel by W. Bruce Cameron, A Dog’s Purpose, Hallström had experience in doing Hachi: A Dog’s Tale and A Dog’s Life s well as The Cider House Rules, Dear John, and The 100-Foot Journey. If he knows one thing, it’s how to manage animals as he makes the soulful story of a devoted dog (voiced by Josh Gad) breezily move along. The idea of an animal who finds the meaning of his existence through the human lives he experiences serves a family film but not exactly great art. Hot up-and-comer Britt Robertson lends a comfortable and good-looking presence to the film.

xXx: Return of Xander Cage

xXx: Return of Xander Cage

In xXx: Return of Xander Cage, the action is overblown, the plot works in about every action trope while the disjointed, thrill-a-minute scenarios that drive the plot are often ridiculous in the extreme. This is third “explosive” chapter of the blockbuster franchise that attempted to redefine the spy thriller with the common thread of extreme athletes turned into secret agents. Apparently, the producers persuaded Vin Diesel to return as government agent Xander Cage who comes out of a self-imposed exile and collides with deadly alpha warrior Xiang (Donnie Yen) and his team as they race to recover a sinister device, the Pandora’s Box, which turn satellites into massive bombs.

Xander recruits a crew of incredibly surly but physically endowed cohorts (which includes muy thai star Tony Jaa and MMA fighter Michael Bisping), who gleefully destroy things and their enemies. Without revealing all the supposedly surprising turns, the breezily-paced film loads in  the series’ signature witty moments, bad-ass attitude, and so many ludicrous moments it almost seems like a parody of the Fast & Furious series.

While it unsuccessfully attempts to raise the bar on extreme action, it does succeed in being almost comically excessive with sound and images — yet somehow, I wasn’t bored in watching it.

So despite all these obvious cinematic failings, both films provide the appropriate emotional release for each of their respective audiences.

Brad Balfour

Copyright ©2017 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved. Posted: January 27, 2017.

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