A Dog’s Journey Tugs At Emotions

(from left) – Ethan (Dennis Quaid) and Bailey as Buddy, a Great Pyrenees Bernese Mountain Dog (voiced by Josh Gad), in “A Dog's Journey,” directed by Gail Mancuso.

A Dog’s Journey is an emotional rerun of predecessor A Dog’s Purpose so please prepare yourselves accordingly with the right amount of Kleenex.

A lot has changed since we last saw Bailey reunited with Ethan (Dennis Quaid) in A Dog’s Purpose.  Ethan and Hannah (Marg Helgenberger) now have a granddaughter, Clarity June or CJ (Kathryn Prescott as an young woman).  Hannah’s son, Henry, died in a car accident when Gloria (Betty Gilpin) was 8 months pregnant with CJ.  The insurance money is set to go to CJ when she turns 18.  Anyway, Gloria isn’t the best mother in the world and thinks that Ethan and Hannah are against her.

As Bailey gets put down, Ethan asks him to take care of CJ and protect her in his next life.  This won’t be the first time nor the last so have the Kleenex at the ready.  I’m a dog lover so naturally, these films tug at my emotions.  I never got the chance to say goodbye when our border collie was put down on October 31, 2016.  Okay, I’m getting distracted but that shows you how much emotional these films are for dog lovers.

In his next life, Bailey is no longer a he but Molly, a  beaglier.  CJ, now a few years older and played by Abby Ryder Fortson, naturally comes to him with her friend Trent (Ian Chen, Henry Lau as a young man).  Bailey recognizes her smell immediately.  When you know you know.  Right?!?  CJ ends up raising Molly while hiding her from Gloria.  Cut to a few years later, CJ and her mother don’t have the best relationship.  Gloria is a drunk and CJ is starting to hang out with a bad crowd, which results in community service after being arrested at a party.  This may actually be a good thing because Molly is scent-trained to look for signs of cancer.  But getting into this bad crowd also results in someone not happy with CJ and that just leads to disaster.

(from left) – CJ (Kathryn Prescott), Bailey as Yorkshire terrier Max (back to camera, voiced by Josh Gad) and Trent (Henry Lau) in "A Dog's Journey," directed by Gail Mancuso.
(from left) – CJ (Kathryn Prescott), Bailey as Yorkshire terrier Max (back to camera, voiced by Josh Gad) and Trent (Henry Lau) in “A Dog’s Journey,” directed by Gail Mancuso.

It’ll take another two lives before Bailey gets back to CJ.  In doing so, CJ will soon reunite with Trent in the process.  Sometimes, the universe wants you to be together.  Even Bailey–now a Yorkshire terrier named Max–wants the two of them to lick faces already.  It’s not so easy as both of them are in relationships with other people.  Of course, Bailey has a plan of his own.  Things progress as they will.  I can go on and on but long story short, Trent takes CJ back to Ethan and Hannah’s farm as a thank you.  If you’re not crying yet, you should be.  This is the part of the film where I was just bawling in tears.  You cannot fight your emotions here.  Just let the tears flow.

Josh Gad is as solid as ever while reuniting with former 1600 Penn director Gail Mancuso.  He has a way of bringing emotions to dogs much in the way he brings life to a snowman.  You’ll laugh and cry.  I can say the same thing about the entire film.  It’s not an understatement to say that my emotions were running wild, especially during the third act.

Gail Mancuso has a sharp command behind the camera.  There’s just enough laughs here to offset the sentimental moments.  It’s nothing that Mancusco hasn’t worked with before.  She’s very much the right person for the film.  Even with differing points of views, the tone needs to be just right.  Because CJ is the main character, this film is more female-centric.  But if you’re a dog lover, it will be appealing no matter what gender you are.

A Dog’s Journey is every bit as sentimental as its predecessor.

DIRECTOR:  Gail Mancuso
SCREENWRITERS:  W. Bruce Cameron & Cathryn Michon and Maya Forbes & Wally Wolodarsky
CAST:  Marg Helgenberger, Betty Gilpin, Henry Lau, Kathryn Prescott, with Dennis Quaid and Josh Gad

Universal Pictures opens A Dog’s Journey in theaters on May 17, 2019. Grade: 3.5/5

Danielle Solzman

Danielle Solzman is native of Louisville, KY, and holds a BA in Public Relations from Northern Kentucky University and a MA in Media Communications from Webster University. She roots for her beloved Kentucky Wildcats, St. Louis Cardinals, Indianapolis Colts, and Boston Celtics. Living less than a mile away from Wrigley Field in Chicago, she is an active reader (sports/entertainment/history/biographies/select fiction) and involved with the Chicago improv scene. She also sees many movies and reviews them. She has previously written for Redbird Rants, Wildcat Blue Nation, and Hidden Remote/Flicksided. From April 2016 through May 2017, her film reviews can be found on Creators.