“A Dog’s Journey” interested me from the start. It’s the sequel to (year) A Dog’s Purpose starring Josh Gad and Dennis Quaid. The original story is about Bailey, Ethan’s best friend who lives many lives. And in all of his lives, this loving dog is trying to find his way back to his friend and bring Ethan together with the love of his life. Bailey succeeds in his purpose and the sequel carries forward a few years later. I love dogs and I loved the theme of man’s connection with the animals we care about, especially how much our friends bring to our lives. “A Dog’s Journey” continues that theme of connections, family, and cycles, shows the realities of life with our pets in a subtle and caring manner, and is as emotional and loving as the original film.
“A Dog’s Journey”, directed by (Gail Mancuso), carries forward with Ethan (Dennis Quaid) living with Hannah (Marg Helgenberger), his loving wife and Bailey voiced by Josh Gad. They also live with their granddaughter CJ, Charity Jane, and her mother Gloria (Betty Gilpin). Hannah’s son Henry has died before CJ was born and Gloria is staying with her in-laws who love helping with CJ. But Gloria struggles with accepting their support and fights with them. She leaves, taking CJ with her. When Bailey passes away, Ethan asks his dog to find CJ and protect, love her for them, giving his dog a new purpose. Living many lives, Bailey finds his way back to CJ (Kathryn Prescott) and her best friend Trent (Henry Lau) and discovers ways to fulfill his promise to Ethan.
What gives this film such impact is the reality of life with a pet. While this movie is all about dogs, I think most pet owners will empathize with life with a pet, whether you own a dog or not. It absolutely illustrates the unconditional love dogs provide their owners, their people, and how much they are willing to devote to those who love them back. But it also illustrates the harsher truths, how we feel when our pet moves on and what we sometimes have to do to show our love in return. It demonstrates the cycles in life with a dog, both the ups and the downs, and how if we’re lucky, we connect over and over again with those who touch our hearts. And even if you’re chosen friend is not a dog, you can still see those same connections and love in any animal who you love and who loves you in return.
I also appreciated a lot of the work that went into the film. There are some effects that work well, helping the story be told to its highest potential. The first is the transitions. The film, to tell the story, has to jump forward into time several times. The director and writers do a great job with those transitions, both in the dog’s lives and in CJ’s life. Besides those seamless transitions, it also does a great job with the makeup, especially the aging effects for Dennis Quaid and Marg Helgenberger as they get older. In addition, the casting is excellent, picking children that are good fits for their older selves. The writing also shows both the good and bad in the people around the dogs, especially Gloria, CJ’s mother. The ending wraps up the story with thoughtfulness and beautiful imagery
The writing does a fabulous job of giving us the dog’s perspective over his/her lives. The film gives us little moments with the dog, his question of whether the people will lick each other and how he thinks he’s the boss no matter what size he is. Besides the dog, we also get a subtle viewpoint of how the death of an animal impacts their owners. If you have a family, this can be a great talking point for children to help them understand the concept better. The changes in the dogs work well, each animal bringing changes but also staying true to the personality of the original dog, boss dog Bailey.
The acting is emotional. Dennis Quaid, even though he is only in part of the film, does a fantastic job of showing a loving relationship with his dog, his wife, and his granddaughter. Marg Helgenberger is touching as Hannah, especially when she is with her granddaughter and more so, when she has to watch Gloria leave with Hannah. Betty Gilpin as Gloria is dynamic, showing ups and downs, the good and bad in her character. The various incarnations of CJ, first as a child (Abby Ryder Fortson) , continuing as an adult (Kathryn Prescott) portrays her character with impact and emotion. Her best friend Trent (Ian Chen and Henry Lau) is warm and loving in his performance, perfect in his role as her supportive friend. As they carry forth the next cycle in the story, they perform their parts well and are heartwarming to watch. Josh Gad is perfect as the voice of Bailey, Molly, Big Dog and Max, highlighting the personalities of each dog and staying true to the star of the film, the dog.
The film is not without its flaws. The story is completely predictable but that is hard to avoid in a film about cycles, especially pertaining to life, death, and love. Without that predictability, the story wouldn’t shine half as much and wouldn’t be as emotional. Some of the characters that are the antagonists in CJ’s life are left with not much depth. While we still get the impact of their presence, we do not get to see complete characters either. A little more character development could have deepened the story but ultimately, the story is about the dog, about Bailey, Molly, Big Dog, and Max and his role in CJ’s life. And that part of the story is incredibly well written and performed.
This film is emotional. If you love films about dogs and animals, I think you will love this one. I do caution you, if you’ve lost a loved friend recently, this may be a difficult film to watch. Even less recently ended up making me cry but out of remembrance and love. This story showcases the cycles in both our furry friends but also in our lives. It connects with family and loved ones and the ending wraps up the story beautifully, with lovely imagery that is fitting to this sweet story about dogs. I found it even more touching than the first film and it made me cry even harder, even while I loved each heartfelt moment.
Rating: 4 out of 5 paw shakes.