Whatever you want to say about any of the W. Bruce Cameron adaptations, by the time A Dog’s Journey‘s credits rolled I had overdosed on cuteness.
There isn’t much to say about any of the adaptations of W. Bruce Cameron’s series of books about the trials and tribulations that canines have on the human spirit. You know what you are going to get when walking into your local Cineplex when you watch the thing; you are going to be manipulated with a heavy hand that will be spread thicker than Jiffy. Though, when it comes to movies about dogs (and those glorious 90 seconds in Mulholland Drive), I’m only a man, and a weak one at that. By the time A Dog’s Journey‘s credits began to roll, I had already overdosed on cuteness.
A Dog’s Journey is a sequel to the surprise mild hit, 2017’s A Dog’s Purpose, with Dennis Quaid reprising his role Ethan Montgomery. Josh Gad is back and plays his Boss-Dog, which is the voice of Bailey (and the subsequent reincarnations), an older St. Bernard who loves his owner and his wife Hannah (Marg Helgenberger). Bailey now looks over their grandchild, CJ, like his little sister that’s a new addition to their clan. CJ’s mother, Gloria (GLOW‘s Betty Gilpin), the widow of Ethan and Hannah’s son, who is struggling with life without him, and doesn’t seem to appreciate that her in-laws have taken them in with open arms because that’s what family does.
The film was directed by Gail Mancuso (Gilmore Girls, 30 Rock, Modern Family), a notable Emmy-winning television director, and her film is the best in the series that includes A Dog’s Purpose and A Dog’s Way Home. That doesn’t mean the film is setting the family film genre on fire; it doesn’t. Especially when you combine the shameless manipulation that’s more saccharine than Splenda. This film will be trampled on by the snobby mob social media mentality types (cough, Film Twitter, cough) that is spread like a disease. This film isn’t meant for them; this is meant for family audiences, for parents to get their kids out of the heat with no pool in sight, and/or to relax then forget about the world for an hour or two. In short, not all entertainment has to be an art form.
The cuteness overload continues the same formula as the original; different reincarnations bring us several different adorable dog breeds. Besides Beethoven’s love child Baily, you get an adorable female Beagle named Molly, a slobbery Mastiff who is a big ball of joy named Big Dog, and then there’s Max, a feisty, ankle-biting Yorkshire Terrier who might have been Chris Harrison in another life. This all is a gluttony buffet of canine proportions.
The ace up its sleeve is Dennis Quaid, a self-assured star who can be put in most any supporting role. Josh Gad might not exhibit Bryce Dallas Howard’s childlike wonderment in Purpose, but his impeccable comic timing does serve the film well here. Kathryn Prescott does a fine job carrying the back end of the film as the adult CJ. While I normally love Betty Gilpin, I found her performance as an alcohol-soaked washout over the top here. Henry Lau, though, wins the booby prize here as CJ’s best friend and potential love interest.
When it is all said and done, A Dog’s Journey‘s “Live Die Repeat” narrative structure is just like the original but told with an approach that is not as ham-fisted as other chapters in the series. The film, if anything, is a pleasant way to spend 90 minutes with the family or yourself, but is only worth rental prices or if you are able to sneak in all your refreshments and a bag of your own popcorn.
M.N. Miller has been a film and television writer for Ready Steady Cut since August of 2018 and is patiently waiting for the next Pearl Jam album to come out.