A Dog’s Journey is the sequel to the much-loved A Dog’s Purpose (2017), both based on bestselling books written by W. Bruce Cameron. As in the first movie, this sequel is about the many lives of Bailey the dog (voiced by Josh Gad), who’s reincarnated again and again so he can find an owner to protect and love.
A Dog’s Journey begins with Bailey living on a farm with his ‘boy’, Ethan (Dennis Quaid) and Ethan’s wife, Hannah (Marg Helgenberger). When Hannah’s son tragically dies, his widow, Gloria (Betty Gilpin), and daughter, Clarity June ‘CJ’ (Emma Volk), come to stay with Ethan and Hannah. CJ loves life on the farm, and Ethan and Hannah adore her. But Gloria is grieving the loss of her husband and struggles to care for CJ. Gloria’s insecurities and selfishness cast a shadow over everyone’s lives. Gloria feels that Hannah is trying to take CJ away from her and, in a fit of anger, suddenly decides to move away with CJ. Ethan and Hannah are devastated. Bailey feels their pain and soon after, as Bailey dies, Ethan asks him to come back to find CJ and protect her.
This begins Bailey’s adventure through multiple lives as Molly, Big Dog and Max. Molly helps a lonely, 11-year old CJ (Abby Ryder Fortson) cope with her alcoholic, neglectful mother. Many years later in New York City, Max finds CJ (Kathryn Prescott) in need of love and companionship and reunites her with her childhood best friend, Trent (Henry Lau). Together they experience joy heartbreak, music, love and laughter before finally returning home.
Family breakdown; death; reincarnation; alcohol dependence; repeated death of dogs; neglect; domestic violence; serious illness; relationships
A Dog’s Journey has some violence. For example:
- An aggressive young man grabs teenage CJ roughly, and Molly bites at his leg to make him let go. The man yells, ‘I’m gonna kill that stupid dog’.
- CJ’s ex-boyfriend pursues CJ and Molly in his truck as they drive at night. CJ keeps trying to get away from him and becomes more scared as the chase continues. After he rams her car with his truck, CJ loses control. This causes her car to flip over, fly through the air and land upside down in oncoming traffic. CJ is battered and cut in the accident but survives, but Molly is fatally injured and lies among the shattered glass. CJ is devastated as she tries to help Molly. CJ is obviously distressed as she witnesses her beloved dog die. The scene is intense and very emotional and could be distressing to many viewers.
- In adulthood, CJ’s boyfriend grabs her arm aggressively to stop her from leaving. Max and his canine friend growl and bark at the man until he lets go.
A Dog’s Journey has some sexual references. For example:
- When a young man grabs teenage CJ, she tells him to get off. When CJ tells her drunk mother that a man attacked her, Gloria blames CJ for the attack. She says, ‘Did you provoke him or something?’
- A standing dog looks between its forelegs at something we can’t see and says, ‘Nope, I’m a girl this time’.
- The dog comments on people ‘licking each other’s faces’, which means they’re kissing.
- Ethan and Hannah share a romantic dance in their kitchen.
Alcohol, drugs and other substances
A Dog’s Journey has some use of substances. For example:
- Gloria is an alcoholic. She often drinks wine or has a wine glass in her hand in front of her young daughter. Gloria often slurs her words and Molly remarks that she smells of alcohol.
- A boy at a party deals drugs, exchanging small packets for money.
- Teenagers are drinking at a party, and CJ is encouraged to have some beer. When police are called, CJ is caught holding a cup of beer and is arrested.
Nudity and sexual activity
A Dog’s Journey has some nudity and sexual activity. For example:
- CJ and a young man she meets at a convenience store kiss passionately in the front seat of his car.
- Couples kiss at a party.
- Gloria often wears very skimpy, revealing outfits, including tight tops, short shorts, plunging necklines and so on.
- CJ and Trent kiss. The dog comments on how they’re licking each other’s faces.
- Gloria stays out all night and brings a man home for breakfast.
There’s no overt product placement in A Dog’s Journey, although Bailey loves to eat Cheetos and beef jerky in one of his lives.
A Dog’s Journey has some insults and name-calling, including ‘stupid’, ‘idiot’, ‘dumb’, ‘exclamation’, ‘oh God’ and ‘chubby’. There’s also a scene where a dog sticks his nose into a woman’s rear end, pushes her into a baby pool and says, ‘Maybe you wanted to stick your nose in my butt’.
Ideas to discuss with your children
A Dog’s Journey is a feel-good, funny and emotional drama that tugs at the heartstrings and will appeal to a range of audiences, although it’s best suited to families with older children or teenagers. While the movie touches on serious themes, it also offers powerful messages about friendship and love.
The main messages from this movie are about learning to love without conditions. The movie also suggests that humans are always happier with companionship (either human or canine), that we’re not meant to go through life alone and that we always end up where we’re meant to be.
Values in this movie that you could reinforce with your children include resilience, self-belief, forgiveness, empathy, perseverance, persistence, loyalty, the strong bond between people and their pets, and the importance of loving friends and family.
This movie could also give you the chance to talk with your children about real-life issues like:
- alcoholism and the effects that excessive drinking can have on relationships
- abusive men and victim-blaming
- the negative impact of ‘fat shaming’ on self-esteem, especially when people close to you do it
- the damaging effects of parental neglect
- the importance of choosing your friends carefully and trusting your instincts
- the need to ask for help and be there for your friends even when no-one else is.