A Dog's Journey (3 stars)

A Dog's Journey

The sequel to A Dog's Purpose goes big on tragedy and old-fashioned charm

Hankies at the ready, the sequel to 2017's A Dog's Purpose is here. Even if you're not a dog lover, it'll be hard to stifle the sniffles for this tale of canine reincarnation. We're reunited with Ethan (Dennis Quaid) and Bailey (voiced by Josh Gad), whose doggie spirit was reborn from the Michigan man's childhood mutt. Ethan is now settled with love-of-his-life Hannah (Marg Helgenberger) but the story really focuses on Hannah's granddaughter CJ.

The unashamedly sentimental plot may have a whiff of soap opera about it, but incoming director Gail Mancuso (winner of two Emmys for her work on Modern Family), who replaces Lasse Hallström, handles it well, seasoning the teary moments with some warm, fuzzy humour. Much of this is down to Gad – quite lovely as the ever-excitable, ever-hungry pup. 'I wish this bed was made of bacon,' he muses at one point.

As those familiar with the original will know, the dogs don't stick around forever; when Bailey bounds off to doggie heaven, his soul returns, with Gad's body-swapping canine on a mission to protect CJ wherever she goes. First re-emerging as a beagle named Molly and later a terrier named Max, this loyal pup keeps finding his gal (played by Abby Ryder Fortson as an 11-year-old, then Kathryn Prescott from her late teens) as she grows up with troubled single mother Gloria (Betty Gilpin).

As for the sub-plot concerning CJ and her friend Trent (Henry Lau), there are obvious parallels to the Ethan-Hannah storyline. But, hey, A Dog's Journey is not meant to be subtle. It has a formula and it sticks to it. When Quaid gets older, under some creaky prosthetics, it looks laughable. And, featuring everything from car accidents to cancer, this might be the most tragedy-filled film ever made. But, as it makes its pitch to become the modern-day Lassie, it has old-fashioned charm to spare.

General release from Fri 3 May.

A Dog's Journey

  • 3 stars
  • 2019
  • US
  • 1h 48min
  • PG
  • Directed by: Gail Mancuso
  • Cast: Dennis Quaid, Betty Gilpin, Jake Manley
  • UK release: 3 May 2019

Bailey (Gad) and Ethan (Quaid) are back with another tale of canine reincarnation. Mancuso seasons the teary moments with some warm, fuzzy humour and it’s unashamedly sentimental, but it’s not meant to be subtle and has old-fashioned charm to spare.