Based on the books by W. Bruce Cameron, A Dog’s Journey follows on from the 2017 release A Dog’s Purpose. We’re reintroduced to Bailey, a beautiful pup who’s learning to discover his purpose over a series of lifetimes with different owners.
Bailey keeps coming back to “his boy” Ethan, realising that his greatest purpose is to be there for Ethan through all of life’s events. In this sequel that involves becoming a granddad, Bailey is in charge of looking after Ethan’s granddaughter CJ.
CJ’s Mum Gloria is dealing with the premature death of her husband, resorting to alcohol abuse and bad dates to cope, and sadly “being a bad Mum” because of it.
The themes of both movies are quite mature. From the central theme of reincarnation to domestic violence and pet abuse, Bailey’s multiple lives, and therefore multiple owners, give us tiny glimpses into the different family situations pets are raised in. We see how Bailey finds a sense of ‘home’ in each (even if only briefly) and the unconditional love of a dog is truly celebrated.
It’s a lot to process though for a PG movie. Kids love dogs and in A Dog’s Journey you have to experience Bailey’s death repeatedly. It may not be graphic, but it’s really sad. And, unless parents are ready to have a conversation about reincarnation with their kids, it could make for some challenging table talk.
The adults will also notice the tug-o-war between Bailey’s story as a main character, and that of CJ and Ethan’s. The ‘humans’ have a lot going on and their characters are tested emotionally, but at times it’s happening in the background to Bailey’s point of view and feels undermined.
Bailey’s narration lightens some of the scenes — particularly when he’s needing to ‘relieve himself’ while CJ and Gloria argue — but his interruptions can leave you feeling disconnected from some of the story.
Ultimately, A Dog’s Journey is meant to be a love letter to our pets and their innate ability to know when we need a cuddle. Bailey proves the power of unrelenting unconditional love. We get to see lots of puppies, which will always make you feel better, just don’t read into it too much or you’ll likely leave unsatisfied.
A Dog’s Journey is in cinemas now. Rated PG