A Dog's Journey (2019)

A Dogs Journey Movie Poster Art.jpgDirector: Gail Mancuso
Running Time: 108 Minutes
Starring: Josh Gad, Kathryn Prescott, Dennis Quaid, Marg Helgenberger, Betty Gilpin, Henry Lau, Abby Ryder Fortson, Ian Chen, Emma Volk

The sequel to 2017's A Dog's Purpose, Gail Mancuso directs a follow-up, which is also adapted from a W. Bruce Cameron novel. The result certainly telegraphs every turn which shall be taken, leaving few actual surprises, but is full of emotional beats which work well.

After reuniting his "boy" Ethan (Dennis Quaid) with his love, Hannah (Marg Helgenberger), all that's left for Bailey (voiced by Josh Gad) to do is enjoy living the good life. He has a new playmate in the form of Ethan's granddaughter, CJ, but that's cut short when Gloria (Betty Gilpin), CJ's widowed mother, decides to move away with her daughter. As Bailey reaches the end of his life, he promises Ethan to find CJ and look after her at all costs.

One of the predecessors main issues was it not devoting enough time to the numerous lives Bailey lived. A tighter focus is thankfully employed here, this time only employing a handful of lives for Bailey, with each one devoted to his sweet bond with CJ. An engaging figure in her own right, both Kathryn Prescott and Abby Ryder Fortson do terrific jobs in portraying the character trying to work through their problems, especially familial ones. Josh Gad still delivers the narration well, even if the jokes are too groan-worthy to work,

The handling of tones feels uncomfortable, as the lighter scenes will suddenly be followed by a tonal whiplash of straying into darker territory. Betty Gilpin puts her all into the role of Gloria, but her characters struggle to move on from her loss, and subsequent alcoholism, is ill-handled. The result has her being painted as cartoonishly unlikeable, and any subsequent redeeming comes too little, too late. A toxic ex-boyfriend subplot is especially poorly done, frustratingly ending without any real resolution. It's worth mentioning though, that when the emotional beats work, they work especially well.

A Dog's Journey may struggle to balance the darker and lighter elements, but is an emotionally engaging feature benefited by the talented performances on show.