Review: A Dog’s Journey is a Canine Catastrophe

Children who like dogs will find them cute.

Review: A Dog’s Journey is a Canine Catastrophe
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About the Author

Tyler Collins

Tyler Collins

Tyler Collins is a thespian and performer who has worked with theatre, film, and TV across Ontario. He comes from Campbellton, NB, and has lived in North Oakville over 20 years. He is a graduate of Journalism from Sheridan College. Twitter: @MrTyCollins

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Just as truly excellent movies are rare, so are complete misfires. It’s not often a film is made that is unapologetically lazy and pandering. A Dog’s Journey is certainly heartfelt. But its perspective is too wacky and disproportionate to be enjoyable.

It’s indisputably clear the movie’s main goal is to overwhelm the audience with cuteness. But if you’ve seen A Dog’s Purpose or A Dog’s Way Home, the big thing missing here are DOGS. There’s only two or three named dogs that Bailey becomes. If you’re looking for a dog extravaganza, it can’t even do that right.

For the few who will se this film without knowledge of past instalments, this continues the story of a dog named Bailey. Once again based on the books by W. Bruce Cameron, Bailey (voice of Josh Gad) is still hopping to different dogs bodies. But instead of watching over his boy Ethan, the dogs now look after his granddaughter CJ.

It’s not really about a dog’s journey – it’s about CJ’s. And the dogs are – except for an early scene with a tamed horse – totally useless to CJ except as a comfort item. The plush toys from the upcoming Toy Story 4 could fill in with almost no change to the story.

It’s not a dog’s journey at all – it’s a shallow mess

Young CJ (both as a toddler and young child) is infinitely more charming and cute than the dogs. Every time the human characters step up for a moment of interesting conflict or storytelling, it’s undercut with a juvenile remark from Bailey’s spirit.

The dogs are merely uninformed narrators to the human story – and having a narrator who’s wildly stupid as Bailey is only funny for a few minutes. After that, it’s annoying.

Photo: Universal Pictures

One of the few competing scenes was Ethan saying goodbye to Bailey. But there’s a massive plot inconsistency. Back-to-back lines change is Bailey is narrating in the present, or as if it’s in a flashback. Which is it? These tenses make it unclear what Bailey’s relationship with everyone else.

It’s so effectively sentimental because the relationships are hilariously over-exaggerated. Good people aren’t this pure. Bad people aren’t this blindly cruel. That’s not how real life works.

The worst of them is Gloria (Betty Gilpin) – CJ’s mother. She is among the most frustrating mothers ever captured on film. She has nearly no redeeming qualities, ranging from her negligence of CJ to her obnoxious, selfish attitude. Her endless fat-shaming, wine sipping and lack of responsibility is infuriating.

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A heartfelt movie than panders and insults the audience

You’d have to be a stubborn, cruel soul to not find a sincere connection with the humans and animals alike. The emotional investment is hard to dismiss, and audiences looking for shallow, uncompromising sweetness will love this.

There’s nothing engaging or original in A Dog’s Journey that hasn’t been seen before. The only thing that’s different is an abundance of wine and mimosas that constantly distract Gloria.

Dog lovers will be briefly amused. Children who like dogs will find them cute. Most other audiences will be lulled to sleep with no hope of relief.

A Dog’s Journey
0 out of 4 stars

PG, 1hr 48mins. Family Drama.
Directed by Gail Mancuso.
Starring Josh Gad, Kathryn Prescott, Betty Gilpin, Henry Lau and Dennis Quaid.
Now Playing at Film.Ca Cinemas, Cineplex Winston Churchill and Cineplex Oakville & VIP.


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One side note I found fascinating – one hilariously unoriginal subplot towards the end is stolen from The Secret Life of Pets franchise. There’s a young, single woman in a New York apartment with two dogs.

The smaller one is named Max, the bigger one is named Duke. The only thing funnier than this lazy coincidence is the fact the new Secret Life of Pets movie comes out in a few weeks.

It speaks to how easy it is to make a pandering dog movie.

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