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A Dog's Journey Movie Review - You’ll Cry and Also Rejoice

You will wish your much loved pet could come back to you in many forms.

May 15, 2019

By: Lynn Barker

In A Dog’s Journey, doggie Bailey (voiced again by Josh Gad) is still enjoying his life on the Michigan farm of his "boy," Ethan (Dennis Quaid) and Ethan's wife Hannah (Marg Helgenberger). Ethan and Hannah’s very young granddaughter CJ loves Bailey and it is mutual. Problem is CJ’s overbearing mom Gloria (Betty Gilpin) who had rather have a music career than a baby.

Gloria wants to take CJ and leave the farmGloria wants to take CJ and leave the farmCourtesy of Universal Studios

She decides to take CJ away with her to make the career happen. As Bailey is passing on and ready for a new life, he promises Ethan to find CJ and protect her at all costs. Can he keep this promise?

A Dog's Journey Trailer


Bailey enjoys his life on the farmBailey enjoys his life on the farmCourtesy of Universal Studios

On the Farm

After Hannah’s son Henry dies in an auto accident, his wife Gloria and baby CJ come to live with Hannah and Ethan. Gloria is far from a friendly, attentive mom, however and refuses to leave CJ with Hannah while she goes to pursue a singing career. Instead, after blaming a few bad parenting moments on dog Bailey, she takes CJ and hits the road. When elderly Bailey is dying, Ethan asks him to come back, find CJ and protect her. We know Bailey will.

Ethan asks dying Bailey to take care of CJEthan asks dying Bailey to take care of CJCourtesy of Universal Studios

Next Life

Bailey is reincarnated as a puppy named Molly. Her brother Rocky is adopted by a cute Asian boy named Trent who knows the now tween-aged CJ She wants to adopt Molly but knows mom Gloria hates dogs. CJ hides Molly. Since Gloria drinks too much and is out a lot, she doesn’t notice the dog for a long time.

Tween CJ tries to hide Molly from GloriaTween CJ tries to hide Molly from GloriaCourtesy of Universal Studios

Molly and CJ meet and play with Trevor and Rocky. Finally mom discovers Molly but reluctantly let’s CJ keep her. CJ and Trent remain friends through high school although he would like CJ to be his girlfriend. Hannah and Ethan try to visit but Gloria turns them away telling CJ that they tried to steal the money dad left for her.  

Teens CJ and Trent with MollyTeens CJ and Trent with MollyCourtesy of Universal Studios

New Guy

At a convenience store, the 18-year-old CJ (Kathryn Prescott) who now wants to be a singer/songwriter, meets a low-life but cute guy named Shane who is into booze, drugs and partying. For a while CJ tries to go along but when a party is busted by the cops, she is sent to jail. Trent takes care of Molly. CJ’s community service sentence at a facility training dogs to sniff out cancer ends in Molly being a natural at it. When Shane grabs CJ, attacking her, she tells her drunk mom, who couldn’t care less. Mom also tells her she has no inheritance from her dad. Mom spent it a long time ago! CJ is shattered. She leaves home in the family car only to be followed and chased by angry Shane in his car. A wreck follows and little Molly is killed.

Mom Gloria drinks too muchMom Gloria drinks too muchCourtesy of Universal Studios

Another Life

Bailey/Molly reincarnates this time as a huge mastiff-type dog called simply Big Dog by his gas station owner Joe. He has almost given up on finding CJ this time but fate puts her at the gas station on her way to start a music career in New York City. She is friendly to Big Dog but has no idea that he is the reincarnated Molly and she goes on her way.

CJ meets Big Dog in the gas stationCJ meets Big Dog in the gas stationCourtesy of Universal Studios

Sad Big Dog leads a nice life with Joe but ends up dying before ever finding CJ again. This time he comes back as a feisty tiny terrier puppy dubbed Max. Max is up for adoption but won’t let anyone but CJ adopt him. He snaps at everyone and is almost scheduled for euthanasia when he spots CJ, chases after her and leaps into her arms. She ends up adopting him.

CJ decides to adopt tiny MaxCJ decides to adopt tiny MaxCourtesy of Universal Studios

Boyfriend and Dog Walking

Molly, still trying to make it as a singer while dog walking to earn money, lives with her kind of snooty boyfriend Barry (Kevin Claydon) who has his own dog Duke and keeps telling CJ she’ll never make it as a singer. She still has stage fright and won’t sing in public. Max leads CJ to run into Trent (Henry Lau) who has moved to NYC from London and has a girlfriend Liesl (Daniella Barbosa) who is very possessive of him. Barry and CJ break up and she sleeps on friends’ couches finally ending up staying in Trent’s guest room.

Trent and girlfriend LieslTrent and girlfriend LieslCourtesy of Universal Studios

Trent’s Illness

Max, who has been through one life as Molly, smells cancer on Trent. His girlfriend ditches him and it is CJ who sees him through treatment to health. Mom Gloria has cleaned up her act, meets with a reluctant CJ who can’t forgive her. Mom encourages her to bite the bullet and sing in public. With Trent’s support, she sings at a club and is a big success. After reading some letters Gloria gave her from her dad, CJ wants to visit Ethan and Hannah at their farm.

Trent isn't feeling wellTrent isn't feeling wellCourtesy of Universal Studios

The Future?

While visiting the farm, Ethan senses that Max is really Bailey and proves it to CJ who realizes that the other dogs in her life were Bailey as well. She also realizes that she actually loves Trent. Will their relationship blossom? What is in store for Max next and what’s going to happen to CJ, Trent and her family? What is Bailey’s eventual fate?

CJ, Max and Trent on the farmCJ, Max and Trent on the farmCourtesy of Universal Studios

Wrapping Up

A Dog’s Journey is a mixed bag. It’s great to see the story of Bailey and Ethan established in A Dog’s Purpose, continue into a new generation. The movie promotes the theme of believing in yourself despite the odds and continuing to pursue your dream. CJ finally picks a nice guy over a jerk one and her mom Gloria gets some redemption. As voiced by Josh Gad, Bailey/Molly/Big Dog/Max wins our hearts with his/her doggie-point-of-view comments.

CJ Finally plays and sings in publicCJ Finally plays and sings in publicCourtesy of Universal Studios

On the negative side, the dog dies four times and we have to go through each death. It is just hard to be manipulated that much.. We are sobbing then, “Oh, I’m a cute puppy”, “Oh, I’m sick and dying”… “Oh, I’m an older giant dog”, Oh…..etc. up and down. This might be a bit too much of an emotional load for kids and, although film has a happy-ish ending, you feel like it is you on a leash being jerked up and down throughout the movie.

Bailey and Ethan foreverBailey and Ethan foreverCourtesy of Universal Studios

However, with that said, if you ever had a much-loved dog or cat or…any pet, you can relate and yes, it’s okay to cry. It’s great to try to believe in reincarnation and, in this case, the pet “rainbow bridge” as a final ending. This softens the pet death blow.  Story points are very easy to predict throughout the movie however.

We think the warm, cuddly and humorous sections of the film are enough to merit our 3 stars.

A Dog's Journey Movie Rating:

A Dog's Journey Movie PosterCourtesy of Universal Studios

See A Dog’s Journey in theaters Friday, May 17th

Share Your Opinion!

Have you gone through the death of a pet? Do you wish pets could come back into your life? What about your dog, cat or other pet lets you know they will love you forever? Let’s hear from you with a comment here or on your Kidzworld profile page!