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'A Dog's Journey' has more of a bite than you might think

'A Dog's Journey' has more of a bite than you might think


I might as well be upfront about this: I cried all the way through this movie. I kept snuffling while photos of the filmmakers’ pooches appear during the credits.

This movie is meaningful, surprisingly dark and insightful at times, and demands that viewers bring tissues.

“A Dog's Journey,” like the previous films “A Dog’s Purpose” and “A Dog’s Way Home” is adapted from a W. Bruce Cameron book.

The concept of canine reincarnation continues. The film posits that dogs are reincarnated over and over, always trying to find their way back to their special person.

Bailey, the big, lovable fellow from “A Dog's Purpose,” is older now in this movie. He remains with Ethan (Dennis Quaid, sporting a John Deere cap in several scenes) and Hannah (Marg Helgenberger.) Bailey adores their granddaughter CJ (Emma Volk), who along with CJ’s mom Gloria (Betty Gilpin, “Isn’t It Romantic?”) lives with the couple.

Gloria is troubled, selfish, and really doesn’t pay much attention to her little girl. She has lost her husband in a car crash and seems unable to relate to anyone else.

Eventually, she leaves the farm along with CJ. A worried Ethan, who bids adieu to his beloved Bailey, asks Bailey to find and protect CJ in his next incarnations.

CJ (Abby Ryder Fortson and Kathryn Prescott later on) becomes a lonely young woman who is befriended by the spirit of Bailey who comes back as Molly, a beagle; Big Dog, a mastiff; and Max, a Yorkie.

Josh Gad provides the voice for Bailey, so we know his thoughts.

Regardless of what dog Bailey’s soul inhabits, he stays loyal to his one true person: Ethan. He carries on his mission of protecting and befriending the sad, uncertain CJ while she grows older.

Quaid is starring in two current films, playing two vastly different characters.

In “The Intruder,” he’s a flirty maniac who continues to bother the young couple that bought his house. In this one, he plays two ages of Ethan, including an elderly version. With a move of a hand and a buckle of a knee he is thoroughly convincing that he is years beyond his real age, just as he’s thoroughly convincing he’s a psychopath with a leer and smile in the other film.

Most audiences should and will go to see the adorable dogs, and be moved by how much the friendship of a dog can fill in voids in people’s lives. Even while people cope with serious illness, addiction and loss, dogs provide a solid foundation of never-ceasing love.

I especially appreciated a poignant moment when fate intervenes for a shelter dog.

Like the dogs it portrays, this script is smarter than you might think. And twice as likely to bring you to tears.


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Film critic/reporter since 1985 at Quad-City Times. Society of Professional Journalists, Broadcast Film Critics Association and Alliance of Women Film Journalists member. Member of St. Mark Lutheran Church.

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