A Dog’s Journey is a 2019 American comedy-drama film directed by Gail Mancuso and written by W. Bruce Cameron, Cathryn Michon, Maya Forbes, and Wally Wolodarsky. The film is based on the 2012 novel of the same name by Cameron, and a sequel to the 2017 film A Dog’s Purpose. The film stars Josh Gad, Dennis Quaid, Marg Helgenberger, Betty Gilpin, Kathryn Prescott, and Henry Lau.
The movie starts off a few years after the end of the previous film. Bailey is now an aging dog and lives on the farm with the now married Ethan and Hannah. Also in the farm house are their 2-year-old granddaughter Clarity June “CJ” (Emma Volk) and her mother Gloria (Gilpin). Hannah’s son Henry having died in an accident Gloria is dependent on Hannah & Ethan to take care of her daughter. She herself isn’t very good at being a mom and Bailey has to rescue the toddler who wanders off and goes into a horse’s pen, attracting Ethan’s attention. Gloria is shown to be an incompetent mother with a hatred for dogs, a distrust of her dead husband Henry’s parents (Hannah and Ethan) and an ambition to have a singing career. She leaves with CJ accusing Hannah & Ethan of being close to CJ only for the insurance money that Henry left for his daughter.
A short while after that Bailey starts to suffer from cancer and soon is put down as his condition worsens. Ethan holds Bailey lovingly and tells him to take care of CJ, before he is lethally injected. Bailey, now dead, is then seen running through a grassy field towards young CJ. Nine years later, Bailey, who has been reincarnated as a female beagle named Molly, is part of a litter of puppies who are adopted out until only Molly and her favorite brother Rocky are left. She sees a young boy named Trent (Ian Chen) and his family adopting Rocky. She also sees a young girl with him, who she recognizes is CJ, now 11 years old (Abby Ryder Forston). Molly, remembering the promise she made as Bailey to Ethan, runs outside to CJ. CJ, now living in a house with Gloria, takes Molly home with her and hides her from her mother. Gloria eventually sees Molly and scolds CJ for getting a dog behind her back, but CJ persuades her mother to let her keep the dog given how neglected she feels.
Over time, CJ and Molly grow increasingly close, along with Trent and Rocky. CJ, now a teenager (Prescott), reveals to Trent (Lau) that she wants to drop out of high school and move to New York with her father’s insurance settlement to pursue a career in music. While CJ is busy, Hannah and Ethan visit Gloria’s home with a box of Henry’s old belongings, wanting to see CJ. However, Gloria, still angry over their discord, closes the door on them, but not before Molly takes a liking to Ethan, and he recognizes her as Bailey and reminds Molly of her request to protect CJ. CJ begins to date Shane, a store clerk whom Molly distrusts and tries to protect her from. Shane insists that they attend a party, which gets busted by police for underage drinking. Molly is separated from her and taken to a shelter. Trent retrieves Molly and reunites her with CJ. CJ is sentenced to community service at a facility that teaches dogs how to detect cancer and Molly teaches herself how to signal she has smelled the scent. Shane assaults CJ, and Gloria’s nonchalant response to that and revelation that she has spent Henry’s insurance settlement provokes CJ to leave with Molly.
While leaving town, CJ discovers Shane is stalking her, and eventually, Shane rear-ends CJ’s car, inadvertently killing Molly. Afraid that he might be arrested, Shane promptly flees the scene in a panic. Molly is then shown running through the same grassy field that Bailey was when he died. Bailey, again reincarnated, this time as a male English Mastiff named Big Dog, lives with his new owner, Joe, and is a guard dog at his gas station/convenience store. Although he enjoys his new life, he misses CJ. One day, CJ, now a young adult, visits the store, and Big Dog recognizes and engages with her. After she leaves, he lives the rest of his life missing her, and eventually dies of old age. He is then shown running through the grassy field again. Bailey, once again reincarnated, this time as a Biewer Terrier named Max, is at an adoption event in New York City. To avoid being adopted by anyone until he can find CJ, he uses an aggressive, biting persona, until he sees CJ and chases her to her apartment building. CJ is reluctant to keep Max, but she learns that if Max isn’t adopted by the next day, he will be put down. CJ is living with her boyfriend and working as a dog walker while aspiring to a musical career, but can’t overcome her stage fright. She adopts Max, who befriends her boyfriend’s dog.
While CJ is returning a dog to a client after a walk, Max smells a familiar scent. Leading CJ on a chase throught the hallway, he ends up at the door of an apartment newly rented by Trent and his girlfriend (he also realizes that Rocky has since died). Max, sensing that CJ and Trent have feelings for each other, intentionally misbehaves, sabotaging CJ’s relationship with her boyfriend, causing them to break up and her to move out of his apartment. After staying with various friends, Max pulls CJ toward Trent on the street, who offers his guest bedroom for her to stay in. Soon after, Max remembers learning how to diagnose cancer back during Molly’s life, and signals CJ that he smells cancer on Trent. A doctor confirms the diagnosis and Trent begins chemotherapy. His shallow girlfriend leaves him, leaving CJ as his primary caretaker. Eventually, Trent’s doctor informs him that he is cancer-free, and at Trent’s urging, CJ accepts a meeting with Gloria after not having seen her in years.
She has warmed up to dogs and gives CJ some of the contents that were in Henry’s box which Hannah and Ethan brought to her house during Molly’s life, which are revealed to be letters that Henry wrote to Gloria while she was pregnant with CJ. These notes inspire CJ to write more songs and perform them in front of an audience, finally kicking off her musical career. Trent wants to repay CJ and Max for their help, so he takes them on a road trip to Hannah and Ethan’s farm in Michigan, where they reunite for the first time since Gloria stormed out with CJ during Bailey’s life. Ethan immediately recognizes Max as Bailey. CJ is skeptical until Max performs a unique trick with Ethan that only Bailey would know. Ethan tells CJ that he had asked the dying Bailey to look after her. CJ realizes that Bailey brought her and Trent together as adults and saved Trent’s life, leading her to finally understand that Bailey, Molly, Big Dog, and Max are all the same dog.
CJ and Trent embrace their love for each other, and eventually marry and have their first child, a boy. Gloria reconciles with CJ, Hannah and Ethan. Ethan dies in bed, surrounded by family and with Bailey at his side. Bailey ages and dies as well, with CJ at his side. The movie ends with Bailey running through the grassy field, morphing backward through his previous incarnations, before crossing the Rainbow Bridge and being reunited with Ethan again in Heaven.
Cue the waterworks! Although I liked the previous film better, this one made me cry a lot more. Damn these tears! It didn’t make as much money as the first one. I give it a 7.5 outta 10!