A Dog’s Journey is in theaters
Dogs. They don’t call them man’s best friend for nothing. These canine creatures are cute, cuddly, but most importantly, a loyal friend to the end. No matter what they do, they will be by our side. Which makes it that much harder to let go when it is their time.
That was the premise for A Dog’s Purpose, where Bailey (voice of Josh Gad) is continuously reincarnated. In that film, we saw how inseparable he and his owner Ethan (Dennis Quaid) were. However, Bailey passes on. While the body is gone, the soul of that dog may be reincarnated in different dogs, it doesn’t have the same owner. And yet, there is a mysterious and strong connection that could not be severed, has destiny will someone bring the two together again.
Which takes us to A Dog’s Journey, another sentimental and somewhat emotionally manipulative movie about dogs. In it, Bailey plays another huge role in the film. Before the older Bailey passes on, Ethan asks that if he does come back, that he would protect CJ, Ethan’s granddaughter.
There is this grandiose sequence for each moment that Bailey passes on. It sees him run on a path that is surrounded by a field of grains. The whole exercise is to point out the beauty in death. Yes, you are losing a friend, but if you gave it all the love and care that you could give, and then more, then you know that your dog would have lived a happy and fulfilling life.
And Bailey is obligated to protect CJ at all costs, no matter how hard it is or how many lives it takes. See, Bailey will be a part of CJ’s life. First, we see him become Molly, who, despite her small stature, is drawn to CJ. During adolescence and high school (Kathryn Prescott), we see that the two are just as inseparable as Ethan and Bailey were. This despite the fact that Gloria (Betty Gilpin), CJ’s mom, and an abusive boyfriend show their complete dislike towards canines. The latter of which does something so completely disturbing that it kills Molly.
Far be it for a film like A Dog’s Journey to have layered antagonists. This is a movie about a human’s connection with dogs after all. So if you can set aside some of the one-dimensional people and understand that this is just a film about the unconditional love between a human and their dog, then you should be fine.
See, whether it is Bailey, Molly, Big Dog, or Max, the dogs will do cutesy and silly things. That seems almost obligatory in any movie with a dog in it. You can’t help laugh when Max goes takes “extreme measures” to break up CJ and her snobby boyfriend by biting his shoes, or leaving a brown gift behind.
But there are also other moments where it will make you go “aww” when it does something completely adorable. Even the cynics will shed tears when something completely emotional happens.
This film hits all of those notes and then some. While it is completely manipulative, it works. It intensifies, even more, when the dog shows life-saving talents like sniffing out cancer.
The lengths of which the dog goes through to protect CJ shows the loyalty he has to not only CJ but Ethan. See, this dog has been given a job, and he will see it through to the end.
I won’t get into the whole debate about heaven or reincarnation. That is something for a completely different thing. But I’d like to think that every dog is special. Having just lost one to time, and getting another one, I can tell you that my newest friend isn’t anything like the first one. But if I were to get another one, I would like to believe that somehow, some way, my first dog or my current one would come back to me.
A Dog’s Journey is more of a celebration of the bonds that humans have with their dogs than anything else. It unabashedly gushes with themes of friendship and loyalty. Using sentimentality and emotional triggers, it’s easy to fall in love with something like this, especially if you are a dog owner.