A Dog's Journey (PG)

Drama (2019)
108mins US

Starring: Abby Ryder Fortson, Betty Gilpin, Dennis Quaid, Marg Helgenberger
Director: Gail Mancuso
Writer(s): W Bruce Cameron, Cathryn Michon, Wallace Wolodarsky, Maya Forbes
Listings: London | Rest of UK and Ireland

A dog called Bailey lives with owner Ethan and his wife Hannah on their farm. The couple help their daughter-in-law Gloria to raise a daughter CJ after their son is killed. Gloria is a neglectful parent, who is more interested in furthering her music career than raising a child. Before Bailey leaves the mortal realm, Ethan asks his four-legged companion to return to protect CJ. Consequently, Bailey is reborn as different breeds, whose paths intersect with the girl.

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LondonNet Film Review
A Dog's Journey (PG)

In 2017, there was barely a dry paw when Lasse Hallstrom's emotionally manipulative family drama A Dog's Purpose bounded into multiplexes. Based on the novel by W Bruce Cameron, the film chronicled the multiple lives of a dog called Bailey (voiced by Josh Gad), who is magically reborn as different breeds and finds his way back to doting owner Ethan Montgomery (Dennis Quaid). The slow-motion reincarnations and repeated downpours of saltwater to the mournful strains of Mark Isham's heartstring-plucking score continue in the sequel, directed by Gail Mancuso...

A Dog's Journey. Copyright: Universal Pictures/Amblin Entertainment. Caption: Kathryn Prescott as Calista Jane in A Dog's Journey, directed by Gail Mancuso. Photo: Joe Lederer. All Rights Reserved.Scripted by a litter of four writers, A Dog's Journey gnaws on a lot of the same bones as its well-trained predecessor, dividing Bailey's allegiances this time between Ethan and his granddaughter, who is being raised by a neglectful mother. Key members of cast reprise their roles from the first film and Frozen star Gad - the irrepressible voice of Olaf the snowman - continues to lap up gentle laughs as the sardonic inner stream of consciousness of the four-legged hero. For example, when two rival suitors for CJ's affections come face-to-face, Bailey astutely observes, "Hmm, both of them want to be in CJ's pack". In time, one of the posturing fools plucks up the courage to lick his young mistress' face. It's sweet, inoffensive entertainment for all ages, which dodges scenes of animal cruelty that made the first film a tough watch.

When we meet Bailey, the wise-cracking pooch is happily settled with Ethan and his wife Hannah (Marg Helgenberger) on their farm. The couple are helping their daughter-in-law Gloria (Betty Gilpin) to raise a child, CJ (Abby Ryder Fortson), who is their sole connection to their dead son. Unfortunately, Gloria is more interested in furthering a music career than selflessly raising a daughter. When Hannah and Ethan intervene, Gloria storms out of the farm with teary-eyed CJ in tow. A short while after the family fractures, Bailey comes to the end of his momentous journey with Ethan. As the four-legged companion slips serenely from this world, Ethan whispers a plea for Bailey to return and protect CJ. Consequently, the pet is reborn as Toby, Molly and Max, whose fates intersect with CJ (now played by Kathryn Prescott) as she searches for her place alongside dutiful best friend Trent (Henry Lau).

A Dog's Journey is too gushingly sentimental and structurally similar to the original film to win best in show but Mancuso's picture wags its tail with boundless energy. Prescott bears the heaviest emotional burden as her character overcomes the deep scars left by a mother's so-called love. Gad snaffles most of the best lines then turns tears of laughter into a veritable deluge as he answers a bark from heaven. Again. And again. And again.

- Sam Cannon

A Dog's Journey. Copyright: Universal Pictures/Amblin Entertainment. Caption: Kathryn Prescott as Calista Jane in A Dog's Journey, directed by Gail Mancuso. Photo: Joe Lederer. All Rights Reserved.

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