Directed by Gail Mancuso, A Dog’s Journey is the sequel to A Dog’s Purpose, a hit feature in 2017. Part 2 continues the story of Bailey, a dog who reincarnates as many different breeds to save a girl’s lost soul. While the film has a heartwarming conclusion, it gets there through a series of tragic events that are not treated with the gravity they merit. (JRL: 2 / 5)
Review by FF2 Intern Julia Lasker
Picking up where Lasse Halstrom’s 2017 film left off, Gail Mancuso’s film A Dog’s Journey opens on an idyllic farm run by Ethan (Dennis Quaid) and Hannah (Marg Helgenberger), where their dog Bailey (voiced by Josh Gad) runs free. Tensions have arisen between the couple and their daughter, Gloria (Betty Gilpin), a widow and an alcoholic who is struggling s to raise her daughter CJ.
Soon, old Bailey develops a brain tumor and his time on Earth draws to a close. As he says goodbye, Ethan’s last wish is that – in his next life – Bailey will continue to protect CJ.
Bailey is quickly reincarnated as Molly, a spunky young beagle (“I’m a girl this time!” he remarks). When Molly sees CJ, she is reminded of her new purpose. The two have an instant connection and CJ brings Molly home, in need of a friend in the constant absence of her mother. CJ and Molly spend their days together until CJ is a teenager dealing with bigger life problems (like her boyfriend abusing her and the uncertainty of her future). Suddenly, CJ gets in a car crash with Molly in the backseat and Molly dies.
New Bailey comes back in the form of an African Boerboel. But he is unable to reconnect with CJ, leaving him all the more determined to find her in the next life. So he comes back as Max and, looking to find a replacement for Molly, CJ finds him at a dog adoption center. The two are once again immediate friends, and CJ takes him in. Max can now fulfil his purpose by helping CJ find her lost soul.
To state the obvious, the biggest appeal of ‘A Dog’s Journey’ is that it’s about dogs – and everything that’s wonderful about them. Josh Gad, who voices Bailey (in all his/her incarnations), captures the innocence and excitement that one can only imagine characterizes a dog’s inner monologue. This dog also has personality, delivering an adorable commentary on the world as a dog experiences it. However, the body that this voice inhabits continues to die, which is truthfully quite jarring and upsetting each time it happens.
On a similar note, the heavy content in the film was a bit excessive. The plot deals with relationship abuse, cancer, the loss of loved ones and other things alongside the constant death of loveable dogs. Content like this is not an inherent problem, and screenwriters Bruce Cameron and Cathryn Michen (who wrote A Dog’s Journey) joined in A Dog’s Purpose by Mary Forbes were able to communicate the sadness of each event to some extent. However, because there were so many heartbreaks packed into just one feature-length film, there wasn’t time to delve into the true impact and weight of these experiences. As a result, the plot felt manipulative and superficial.
So, if you can get past the sadness of watching dogs die and you can hunker through a plethora of tragic events in pursuit of the happy ending you know is coming, you may enjoy A Dog’s Journey for its endearing humor and wholesome message: that the love of a dog can truly save someone’s life.
Photos: Credit to IMDB.
© Julia Lasker (06/3/19) FF2 Media