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Bailey (Josh Gad) now lives happily with his original owner Ethan (Dennis Quaid) and his wife Hannah (Marg Helgenberger) as a St. Bernard. He spends most of his days bonding with their baby granddaughter C.J. (Emma Volk) until one day her mother Gloria (Betty Gilpin) takes C.J. away from the family and Bailey. When Bailey’s time as a St. Bernard comes to an end, he promises Ethan that when he comes back, he’ll protect C.J. and bring her home one day. Now Bailey goes on a new journey through multiple lifetimes to fulfill his vow to Ethan, find and protect C.J. (Kathryn Prescott) at all costs. Follow Bailey as he forms an unbreakable bond with everyone he meets and goes on a journey that will lead him and the people he loves to places they never imagined.
Directed by Gail Mancuso (Roseanne) as well as written and based on the novel by W. Bruce Cameron (A Dog’s Purpose & Way Home), A Dog’s Journey (2019) is a heartfelt, funny, and emotional film that will make you smile and cry in sadness and joy. I was a bit hesitant to see this film and its predecessor because being a dog owner myself, you don’t want to even think about your dog passing. But nevertheless, I decided to see both films and while I did cry, I smiled and laughed more than I cried. This film may have some flaws here and there but it does have a few strengths that make it just a bit better than its predecessor. For instance, this story chooses to spend more time on a single dog & human relationship rather than jumping between a different group with each new life. There are some adult themes that may be a bit rough for kids but the message more than makes up for it; by surrounding yourself with people who truly care about you and push you to be better, you can have the strength to overcome the bad things that life throws at you. All in all, this is a great family film that is sure to pull on every one of your heartstrings.
The cast performances were great. As always, Josh Gad (Frozen 2) is the perfect person to voice Bailey because his innocent and courageous nature continues to carry the story’s heart past the drama and provides a few chuckle-worthy moments. In contrast, his comedic performance never gets in the way of the film’s more serious moments. The performances by the human characters are as solid as they were in the first film. Dennis Quaid (The Intruder, Midway), as Ethan, delivers a charismatic and charming performance that inspires us to believe in the film’s far fetched narrative of animal reincarnation. Kathryn Prescott (Dude, 24: Legacy, The Son) and newcomer Henry Lau (Double World, Back to Field) are charming and have genuine chemistry together as they go from being childhood friends to discovering that their feelings for on another have grown past platonic and towards something akin to romance. Marge Helgenberger (CSI, Under the Dome) as Hannah is wonderful and more serious this time around but she doesn’t get as much screen time as she deserves, while Betty Gilpin (Isn’t It Romantic) was my least favorite character but this was mostly due to the nature of her character.
Overall, A Dog’s Journey (2019) is a solid film and a slight improvement in terms of storytelling and utilization of cuteness. The story is heartfelt, comedic, and emotional, while the performances are cute and inspiring. If you are looking for a family film that doesn’t involve superheroes, profanity or terrible animation then I highly recommend that you see this one. Keep in mind though that if you are a big animal lover, especially towards dogs, this film will bring you to tears in a number of occasions but it also never fails to pull you out by way of comedic moments you can’t help laughing at.
Final Vote --- 8.5 of 10 stars
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