Beginning where Lasse Halstrom’s A Dog’s Purpose (2017) left off, this syrupy sequel follows a Buddhist philosophy, imagining that a dying dog’s life-force reawakens in the body of another canine.
It begins on a peaceful Michigan farm belonging to Ethan (Dennis Quaid) and his wife Hannah (Marg Helenberger). Voiced by Josh Gad, Bailey is their Great Pyrenees Bernese Mountain Dog, gently bonding with their toddler granddaughter Clarity June – “C.J.”
Since their son was killed in a car accident one month before C.J. was born, their widowed daughter-in-law Gloria (Betty Gilpin) is drinking far too much wine. When familial tensions erupt, angry Gloria takes C.J. and moves to Chicago to pursue a singing career.
Before cancer claims aged Bailey, Ethan begs his loyal spirit to take care of C.J. So Bailey comes back as Molly, a mischievous Beaglier, reuniting with neglected, 11 year-old C.J. (Abby Ryder Fortson), and C.J.’s best friend/neighbor Trent (Ian Chen).
As time passes, now-grown CJ (Kathryn Prescott) is bereft when her abusive ex-boyfriend (Jake Monley) kills Molly, who can sniff out cancer. During a brief period, Baily is reborn as Big Dog, a mastiff.
Eventually, C.J. and Trent (Henry Lau), along with Bailey-re-embodied-again as Max, a feisty Yorkshire terrier, wind up in New York City.
Adapted from W. Bruce Cameron’s best-sellers, the clichéd, interconnected vignettes are cobbled together by novelist Cameron, Maya Forbes, Cathryn Michon & Wallace Wolodarsky and directed by TV comedy veteran Gail Mancuso (Modern Family, Roseanne), who goes for formulaic emotional engagement over character development.
Dog thespians: Bailey was played by three lookalike dogs, but primarily Odin, who impressed Mancuso by lifting his head for a final, soulful look into Quaid’s eyes before he faded. Molly was played by two Beagliers (a beagle crossed with a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel). Max was played by four Biewer terriers.
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, A Dog’s Journey is a shamelessly sentimental 6, chronicling canine reincarnation