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A Dog’s Journey – Movie Review

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A Dog’s Journey – Movie Review

Rating: B- (Okay)

Trailer/Thumbnail Courtesy Universal Pictures

With A Dog’s Purpose, we got a story about a dog being reincarnated multiple times as he attempted to return to his original owner. After getting part the initial shock that the film would show a dog dying every twenty or so minutes, it turned into an ultimately harmless little family film with an emphasis on showing cute canines. The sequel A Dog’s Journey follows a similar story structure, although there are a few less dog deaths this time around. The result ends up about the same as its predecessor, as it paints in broad strokes, but still has its heart in the right place.

The tone of A Dog’s Journey is established early on, when we witness dog hijinks along with scenes of family bonding. This is hardly what one would call a subtle film, especially with Josh Gad’s narration as Bailey the Dog cheerfully describing the situation with his owner Ethan and his family. There are points when Bailey provides his inner thoughts when it’s not necessary and is just describing the action onscreen. This does get a little frustrating, although a few funny lines do materialize on occasion. Most importantly, we see the closeness between Dennis Quaid’s Ethan and his trusted pooch. Director Gail Mancuso and the quartet of credited screenwriters certainly revel in sentimental moments, but the scenes of dog companionship do fare the best.

This also becomes important when Bailey inevitably reunites with Ethan’s granddaughter CJ. Kathryn Prescott is likeable in the role and nicely shows the friendship CJ formed with Bailey’s new incarnation, starting in childhood. The scenes between CJ and Bailey are rather sweet, mainly to contrast with her mother’s horrible behaviour. She is written in the most one-dimensional way possible, filling every stereotype of the alcoholic, self-absorbed mother cliché. There is no subtlety to the way this character is written as the film pounds you over the head with its message. The other antagonists encountered by CJ also mostly exist, just so the audience can hate them.

The movie attempts some larger themes, including a cancer subplot, which show the film has its heart in the right place. It is a noble effort to tackle these themes, even if the movie doesn’t spend too much time on this. The most curious element of A Dog’s Journey is how much time it spans. The film presumably begins in the present day, but as we follow CJ through the years, technology and cars stay exactly the same. The filmmakers are smart to not mention the specific years, but the thought does cross the mind. The film mostly wants to build its way to the expected sentimental conclusion.

The intent of this series of films is mostly an excuse to send a positive message to the audience about the relationship between human and dog. It’s not a revolutionary message and it is presented in a rather ham fisted way, but A Dog’s Journey avoids getting too annoyingly schmaltzy. The other reason these movies are made is so we can look at cute and well trained dogs. While it would probably be better if the narration was toned down a tad, one can’t fault Josh Gad for his giddy enthusiasm. These are innocent and harmless films unlikely to offend anyone and that’s okay.

Stefan Ellison

Stefan Ellison