Man’s Best Friend is back, and no I don’t mean Dennis Quaid, but Bailey the beloved pooch who, like Tom Cruise’s character in Edge of Tomorrow, has one sole purpose – to “Live, Die, Repeat”.
In the first film, A Dog’s Purpose, we get acquainted with Bailey as a Red Retriever puppy belonging to an 8 year old boy named Ethan.
Ethan grows up and first says goodbye to this physical edition of Bailey as he heads to college. Quaid played the adult Ethan in his 50s, who is reunited with the spirit of Bailey inside a different dog.
A Dog’s Journey picks up where we left these characters, as Bailey, an elderly St Bernard/Australian Shepherd mix now named Buddy, lives a happy, comfortable existence with the ageing Ethan and his wife Hannah (played by Marg Helgenberger stepping in for Peggy Lipton who lost her battle with colon cancer in May 2019).
Also in the mix is 2 year old granddaughter CJ (Clarity June) and her frighteningly bitchy mother Gloria played by Betty Gilpin. As in the first film we hear Bailey’s thoughts (voiced by Josh Gad) as he interacts with his human pack, and he develops a strong protective bond with CJ.
The film follows Bailey’s efforts to stick with CJ throughout her young life, much as the dog did with Ethan.
In this sense, A Dog’s Journey is more about CJ’s experience growing up with a distant, selfish, neglectful and dodgy alcoholic single mum, and how Bailey/Buddy, now Mollie, tracks down CJ as an 11-year-old girl and offers comfort (as only a dog can) throughout difficult teen years, as CJ evolves into a budding singer/songwriter played by Kathryn Prescott, when Mollie, now a Terrier named Max (hello Secret Life of Pets!), once again miraculously enters CJ’s life.
It’s this spiritual side to the film that requires a considerate audience, as it can be all too easy to dismiss the premise with cynicism, but, if like me, you are blessed with a young daughter and a dog, then these films make perfect sense, and also offer a welcome alternative to the predominantly animated family films on offer.
It’s a heart-warming tear-jerker that’s right in the sweet spot for tweens and animal loving people of all ages.
3 & ½ Stars.