A Dog's Journey

 

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The year’s most cloying and predictable movie dishes the dirt on dogs, dating and death.

 

Dog's Journey, A

Shaggy tales: Kathryn Prescott

   

It helps if you believe in reincarnation. The first film, A Dog’s Purpose, based on W. Bruce Cameron’s novel, followed the adventures of a canine soul called Bailey as he hopped in and out of the bodies of various dogs. So, just as the viewer was beginning to warm to a particular scenario, the pooch popped his clogs again. The unexpected sequel – OK, the first film grossed over $200m – is actually a smarter animal. While ‘Bailey’ (voiced by Josh Gad) enjoys his life on the farm with the dog-loving Ethan and Hannah Montgomery (Dennis Quaid, Marg Helgenberger) he makes a promise to himself. Whatever form he takes, he will always look after the couple’s granddaughter, C.J., to whom he’s taken a particular liking. But Bailey, switching breeds, sizes and genders before our very eyes, finds it hard to keep up with his human companions, even though he is conveniently re-incarnated in the same area of the USA – and is blessed with a series of mind-boggling coincidences.

 

Here, then, we follow not only Bailey – and Molly, Max and Toby – but C.J, too, as she grows into an adult singer-songwriter played by Kathryn Prescott. Thus, in spite of the film’s episodic nature, we do have a through-line in which Bailey and C.J. miraculously intersect.

 

As family entertainment geared towards the dog friendly, the film is sweet and innocuous enough, if brazenly ludicrous. And while Mark Isham’s orchestra works overtime to squeeze out every accessible teardrop, the actors handle their scenes with some confidence. But A Dog’s Journey is not all sweetness and light, as estrangement, alcoholism, cancer and car crashes all get a look-in. It certainly doesn’t soft-pedal the harsher aspects of life, although the over-all tone is upbeat and good-natured. After all, whatever happens in this life, the next could prove a good deal rosier. And even though the viewer may suspect the inevitable outcome, the conclusion still proves surprisingly affecting.

 

JAMES CAMERON-WILSON

 

Cast: Marg Helgenberger, Betty Gilpin, Henry Lau, Kathryn Prescott, Dennis Quaid, Josh Gad (as narrator), Emma Volk, Abby Ryder Fortson, Ian Chen, Jake Manley, Daniela Barbosa.

 

Dir Gail Mancuso, Pro Gavin Polone, Screenplay W. Bruce Cameron, Cathryn Michon, Maya Forbes and Wally Wolodarsky, Ph Rogier Stoffers, Pro Des Eric Fraser, Ed Robert Komatsu, Music Mark Isham, Costumes Patricia J. Henderson.

 

Amblin Entertainment/Reliance Entertainment/Walden Media/Alibaba Pictures- Entertainment One

108 mins. USA/India. 2019. Rel: 3 May 2019. Cert. PG.