Veteran television director Gail Mancuso picks up where A Dog’s Purpose leaves off in A Dog’s Journey, written and scripted by W. Bruce Cameron with help from Maya Forbes, Cathryn Michon, and Wallace Wolodarsky. While the subject matter is sometimes troubling, the story is an always touching tale of the depth that a dog’s loyalty achieves.
Bailey (Josh Gad) is the perfect companion for an aging Ethan (Dennis Quaid) as he and his wife Hannah (Marg Helgenberger) keep their farm running while trying to help raise their granddaughter CJ. But tensions between them and CJ’s mother Gloria (Betty Gilpin) rise to a boil, and she takes the girl and leaves. When it is Bailey’s time to go, Ethan asks him to come back and protect CJ instead of returning to him. Obeying his master, Bailey does, despite protestations from Gloria and other obstacles throughout the years.
The story is a solid one, weaving from moment to moment through the dog’s various incarnations, narrated from his point of view. There are a couple of times that the script seems to leave something unfinished, but these are human moments. With the focus being on the dog and his priorities, these omissions make perfect sense. Even with jumps in the timeline, there is an almost seamless transition from moment to moment, weaving an engaging tale that moves effortlessly from beginning to end. The youngest members of the audience will find a few scenes difficult, and will generally miss the deeper themes, but there is enough here for them as well.
Mancuso masterfully pulls the best out of every single cast member. Gad’s ability to portray a wonderfully child-like yet expressive presence for the dog and his viewpoints is exceptional. And while Ethan is more of a background character to this new turn in Bailey’s life, Quaid delivers a fantastic performance throughout his appearances. Betty Gilpin as Gloria is just the right kind of wrong from her first moment on screen on through CJ’s teen years. Notably, Henry Lau as the adult version of CJ’s childhood friend Trent gives the best performance in the film.
Just like the soulful eyes of a dog, this film has a way of pulling at your heartstrings. The cinematography and settings lend a deeper sense of reality to it, bringing the audience fully into the story and emotions by lending a sense of presence and “nowness.”
Other than loyalty to master, the recurring theme (in one way or another) is that just because something is impossible doesn’t mean it isn’t true – a perfect metaphor for what a dog’s journey in life is all about.
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