Warming hearts of audiences across the nation this weekend is A Dog’s Journey, the sequel to the striking global hit A Dog’s Purpose, poising a poignant journey between a dog and its owner. Soaring between the most boisterous of laughs to several tear-welling moments, fans of the predecessor should be anything but disappointed in what is a faithful continuation of the trail that film blazed. The multiple reincarnations of Bailey, the central dog featured in the story, captivates the audience through both the comical narration of a dog’s point of view and the heartbreaking pain losing a canine companion. Although the strained character arcs with the humans may leave much to be desired, A Dog’s Journey works best when it deals with its titular subject matter, and that is exactly how it should be.
Entering the dog Bailey on a farm with the original owner Ethan, the film starts out laying the necessary tracks for the rest of the film to plunder through. Meaning, it doesn’t grab like the rest of the dog-infested emotional roller coaster, but it never feels either unearned or useless. The two share a precious inseparable bond, their companionship inseparable. Through 108 minutes of the film’s measured pace, this companionship is tested and even broken and swapped at points. More than any of the previous entries, A Dog’s Journey tries to be something more than what the bounds of the genre seemingly provide. There is a dense number of human conflicts present, ranging from relationship issues, abuse, and even deathly cancer. All of these themes never quite weave well together however, leaving their inclusion feeling unwarranted and foolishly ambitious. It covers a broad surface of topics certainly, but it barely scrapes the surface for all of them.
While the screenplay fizzles, a hearty dose of well-rounded performances keeps a steady vitality. One such of these notable actors is Dennis Quad, with his performance smartly serving as a bridge between the furry creature and the massive roster of characters. From subtle expressions to an almost creepily calming tone, Quad makes an immediate impression as a notable talent. Marking another strong impression is Henry Lau riding off fame from the music industry. Speaking in proper and correct Mandarin, it’s a nice touch that members of the Asian community will be happy with seeing, but the performances aren’t all happy and glamorous.
Despite age being a predominant factor in this fact, it can’t be avoided that Abby Ryder Fortson as a younger version of the character CJ is stiff and stale throughout. Overstated and often devoid of either subtext or subtle implications, Fortson reads her lines like a human soul injected into that of a rackety robot. Her expressions of emotions just fail to bring an appeal.
Ultimately, A Dog’s Journey will certainly suffice for most families, causing the girls to woo while the boys may be bored. It fits all the requirements of an overstated dog film, however even in relation to the even then stale A Dog’s Purpose, it barely meets expectations and never rises above them. Its emotional appeals are certainly there, tugging on heartstrings every chance it gets, but it peaks and eventually collapses under its own weight. It’s simply trying too hard to surpass its predecessor and while performances carry it to the finish line, it barely makes it to the end of the journey in one piece.
Written by Cynthia Ruan; Edited by Charlie Jin
Bailey (voiced again by Josh Gad) is living the good life on the Michigan farm of his "boy," Ethan (Dennis Quaid) and Ethan's wife Hannah (Marg Helgenberger). He even has a new playmate: Ethan and Hannah's baby granddaughter, CJ. The problem is that CJ's mom, Gloria (Betty Gilpin), decides to take CJ away. As Bailey's soul prepares to leave this life for a new one, he makes a promise to Ethan to find CJ and protect her at any cost. Thus begins Bailey's adventure through multiple lives filled with love, friendship and devotion as he, CJ (Kathryn Prescott), and CJ's best friend Trent (Henry Lau) experience joy and heartbreak, music and laughter, and few really good belly rubs.
A DOG'S JOURNEY is Playing in Theaters Now!