Cast: Josh Gad, Dennis Quaid, Marg Helgenberger, Betty Gilpin
Director: Gail Mancuso
Well, here we go again. We already had A Dog’s Way Home come out earlier this year to try to get money off of our love of dogs, and here’s A Dog’s Journey to double down and take more of the same money. The difference between the two is that I actually cared about the people in A Dog’s Way Home, but in A Dog’s Journey, we get a movie that’s almost the antithesis of A Dog’s Way Home. A generic, emotionally exploitive movie, A Dog’s Journey does what it sets out to do much to my personal despair.
The film follows Bailey (voiced by Josh Gad) the final dog from 2017’s A Dog’s Purpose who lives with Ethan (Quaid) and Hannah (Helgenberger). Bailey lives a good life on Ethan’s farm with their infant granddaughter CJ (Emma Volk). When Gloria (Gilpin), CJ’s mother, decides to move away from Ethan and Hannah with CJ after what she perceives as an attempt by them to take her child from her, Bailey dies shortly after. Right before his death, Ethan says Bailey’s new journey is to look over and protect CJ and after Bailey dies he is reincarnated as a puppy that ends up being owned by a young CJ (Abby Ryder Fortson). The movie follows Bailey’s journey as many different dogs until he gives adult CJ (Kathryn Prescott) the life she deserves and reunites her with her grandparents. Let’s get the most obvious thing out of the way now and this may be considered a spoiler but the trailer makes this fairly obvious, there’s a lot of dog death in this movie. For me, this produced an emotionally mixed response I like to call angry-sad. Like I was angry at the movie for going in this direction to make me sad. I’m ok with a movie moving someone to tears because the subject matter is personal or relatable, but a 108-minute onslaught of dead dogs just feels cheap to me. Outside of the dogs, the humans are either one-dimensional or completely despicable, so it seems like Bailey wasted his time living with these people. CJ has absolutely no connection with her friend Trent (Henry Lau) and he serves virtually the same purpose as the iterations of Bailey. They’re just there to make me angry-sad and it’s not a pleasant experience. Outside of those two, Gloria is legitimately one of my least favorite characters of the year. For a movie supposedly about how much dogs love humans, they really ramped up themes of alcoholism and emotional abuse through Gloria. This woman legitimately had no redeeming qualities and was made to be nothing more than a black hole in CJ’s life until she grows older. That’s the main difference between a movie like this and A Dog’s Way Home is that in A Dog’s Way Home I cared about every single person that movie and the dog, whereas in this movie, I only care about Bailey and Ethan, and Ethan’s only in the movie for about 15 minutes. Quaid got himself quite the gig with this film. Hang out, play with a dog on a farm, get paid, sounds like a pretty good deal to me. Ultimately, you know exactly what type of movie you’re getting from A Dog’s Journey and the movie tries to do nothing more than that.
Overall, I can’t really get that mad at A Dog’s Journey because it’s targeted at the same audience that A Dog’s Way Home was, but as someone who loves dogs, this one was tough to watch. It’s tough on the soul to watch so many animals die in 108 minutes, but ultimately I was emotionally prepared to feel that way so it’s not the end of the world. These movies get made because of the love we have for our canine friends, and while it may not be the best dog movie you ever see, at the very least it will make you go home and make you give your dog a hug and toss the tennis ball one more time.
Overall Score: 5/10