Meanne M. Mijares
Marg Helgenberger as Hannah
Betty Gilpin as Gloria
Henry Lau as Trent
Kathryn Prescott as CJ
Dennis Quaid as Ethan
Josh Gad as Bailey, Molly, Big Dog and Max
Directed by Gail Mancuso
Screenplay by W. Bruce Cameron & Cathryn Michon and Maya Forbes & Wally Wolodarsky
Based on the novel by W. Bruce Cameron
Distributed by Universal Pictures/ Entertainment One Films
A Dog’s Journey is the sequel to 2017’s sentimental A Dog’s Purpose (which I have also reviewed for FilCatholic also in the same year), both of which are based on W. Bruce Cameron’s best-selling books about a dog that has come back to life over and over again with the purpose of finding a particular human being to defend and unconditionally love. This time around, Ethan encourages his beloved dying dog, Bailey to return to find his granddaughter, Clarity June (CJ). I am happy to report that there is less violence in this film, but there is still an alcoholic, neglectful parent (this time a mother) and an abusive boyfriend who literally crashes intentionally into his ex-girlfriend on. Another boyfriend is verbally belittling and seizes his girlfriend. And yes, of course the central dog dies – about four times (an elderly St. Bernard/Australian shepherd mix, a female beagle, a mastiff, a Yorkshire terrier)because of sickness, old age, and accidents. But here, couples don’t do much more than hug and kiss, and language is passive (“idiot,” “stupid”). As in the first movie, there are strong messages about compassion and friendship, as well as the power of having a pet with whom we, humans share unconditional love.
There are strong messages about the life-changing bond, unconditional love, and connection between dogs and their humans. It reminded me again of Cookie, her daughter Chloe, her sister Miranda, her grandchildren Hugo and Heidi, then Samantha, her mother Gay, our rescued dog Tyra, our first family dog, Boogie, Boldie, Janjan and Gabon how much I love and cherish them so as I am increasingly enjoying the bond I have now with Gabriel and King (a parvovirus survivor). The film upholds the thought that people aren’t meant to go through life all by themselves and that they’re even happier and more fulfilled with both human partners and animal friends.
Positive Role Models
Ethan and Hannah are truly wonderful role models: kind, helpful, disciplined, loving as they both were in the first movie, “A Dog’s Purpose”. They both take good care of Bailey and CJ. Bailey, who gets reincarnated as Molly, Big Dog and Max always believes his/her purpose is to defend, protect, and love his/her human companions, never ceases looking for or protecting his/her human. CJ is lonely at times but loves her dog and her best friend, Trent, who’s supportive, generous and very encouraging. Gloria is an intoxicating and neglectful mother but eventually comes into her senses then takes charge and asks for pardon.
On various occasions, a dog passes on. In one particularly painful scene, which is quite heartbreaking for me, is when Bailey dies in Ethan’s arms receiving a euthanizing shot. Another version of Bailey as Molly dies in an accident while others die of old age. An abusive boyfriend deliberately smashes into his ex-girlfriend’s car. Another boyfriend is verbally condescending, snatches his girlfriend. An older adult dies hemmed in by people (and pet) he loves. A boozy mom is negligent, leaving her daughter to fend for herself most of the time. A girl is terrified of a storm, distressed that her mother isn’t around to comfort her.
A married couple embraces each other, dances and briefly kisses which is normal. What I find intolerable and distasteful is that teens make out in a car. From Bailey’s viewpoint, a young couple “licks each other’s faces” — like Ethan and Hannah used to when they were younger. At one point, Bailey relates, “They look like they want to lick each other.”
Intermittent language includes a few uses of “idiot,” “dumb,” and “stupid.” Gloria tosses the word “chubby” like an insult. “Oh my God” is used as an expletive.
Drinking & Drugs
There is the presence of Gloria, who’s nearly most of the time shown in the movie holding a glass of wine or a cocktail in her hand. She’s clearly an alcoholic and is often blitzed. Shane is evidently a drug dealer — he trades cash for small packets at a party!
This sentimental sequel is a fitting homage to the durable bond between dogs and their human best friends. Veteran TV director Gail Mancuso continues Lasse Hallstrom’s emotional touch with the story, which shifts from focusing on Ethan to CJ. The CJ plot is less violent than younger Ethan’s, but it’s still filled with heartbreak, a parent’s substance exploitation, grief, and seclusion (save for all-time friend Trent). Betty Gilpin, I must say, is well cast as a selfish, disinterested mother Gloria who cares more about warning her daughter about the dangers of getting “chubby” than actually parenting her. Kathryn Prescott is credible as a vulnerable, unfulfilled young woman whose utmost comfort has always come from her beloved dog. And Henry Lau is almost too good to be true as the heartfelt adult version of Trent. Josh Gad’s voice is eager and steadfast as the many personifications of Bailey, and, unlike in the first film, A Dog’s Journey, movie goers stay with the same family of dog owners throughout the story (with the exception of one fast detour, though). This movie absolutely and efficiently tugs right at the heartstrings, so pet lovers in particular should expect a lot of tears to flow at the numerous fond and sensitive moments between CJ and Ethan and their dogs. There’s even a subplot about one of the dogs being able to reveal cancer by scent alone, an aptitude a dog can also later show — with life-saving outcomes. For dog lovers, this is a movie that avows the connection between humans and dogs; for others, it’s a saccharine take on some grave matters. Overall, I give a rating of 4.0 out of 5 stars. Or should I say paws.