Movie Review – A Dog’s Journey – Manipulatively Emotional, But The Least Heart-Rending of the Dog Trilogy

Movie Review - A Dog's JourneyI’m relieved to say this heartrending three-movie schmaltz-fest is over. I did the Peetimes for each movie in the semi-trilogy, and was relieved that A Dog’s Journey made me cry the least. By which I mean I cried only three or four times, and these were little teary moments, not the big gulping ugly cries I endured in A Dog’s Purpose and A Dog’s Way Home. (Links go to my reviews. Yes, I’m a masochist and saw all three.)

I was prepared, though. I brought tissues! This marks the first time in ten years of RunPee movie-going that I preemptively (one fan said I should call it ‘pee-emptively’) came prepared to cry. So, if you’re curious, YES, the dog dies in this movie.

Many times. Confused? Read on.

A Dog’s Purpose

In A Dog’s Purpose, Bailey the dog dies and reincarnates. A LOT. I cried a river for  about hours. It was brutal.

A Dog’s Way Home

In A Dog’s Way Home, it’s no longer about Bailey or reincarnation (it’s actually a remake of The Incredible Journey), but the film is considered Bailey-adjacent. Call it a Shared Universe.

That doesn’t let you off the emotional hook, though. All kinds of fresh torture awaits the sensitive dog lover, most tellingly in a devastating scene with Edward James Olmos as a homeless vet who dies alone in the wilderness…with the titular dog chained to his body, a few feet too far from the river to drink. FOR DAYS. Imagine taking your kids to this. Or rather, don’t.

There’s also a scene where the dog gets hit by a car trying to cross a busy freeway…and just lies there…consider this a PSA. I was twitching during that entire sequence, and I think everyone else was too. If you’re a sensitive sort, you can skip the middle movie entirely and just focus on Bailey’s bookend films.

A Dog’s Journey

Which brings us back to A Dog’s Journey. Or, rather, the end of his journey. I’m telling you these things so you’ll be prepared. This isn’t a spoiler — even under the best conditions, dogs don’t live much longer than a decade. This last flick returns to the theme of reincarnation, but somehow is a lot easier on the heart-strings overall. I have to wonder if writer W. Bruce Cameron took pity on his audience and eased up on the heartbreak on purpose.

Should you see a A Dog’s Journey?

Ultimately, A Dog’s Journey is actually a good movie to take your kids to (although you’ll have to explain a few things about dog souls and the Rainbow Bridge).

I’m pleased to say this film is a good evening out — more sentimental than sad. I don’t have a headache from crying, and feel reasonably stable. Can’t expect more than that, right? I mean, it’s a DOG MOVIE. Are there any movies about pets that aren’t tear-jerkers? Even John Wick lost it when his dog was [redacted]. Is it a cooincidence that John Wick Chapter 3 came out today as well…?

Overall, A Dog’s Journey was nicely filmed. The acting (aside from the reliable Quaid) wasn’t very exciting, but the movie is well paced, looks good, and delivers some affably low-key doggy humor. No canine actors were in mortal peril this time, unlike in the first film. The dogs do great work, especially “Molly” — but then, I have a soft spot for beagles.

If you love dogs — and why would you see this kind of thing if you don’t? — you’ll know you’re being emotionally manipulated, but the tale’s more sweet than tragic. Thankfully.

Grade: B-

PS: As per your requests, we are adding an Alert Warning to the Peetimes this film on the RunPee app re: traumatizing dog moments. (But at this point we’re pretty sure you know this about W. Bruce Cameron and his canine oeuvre. This film is the gentlest of the three. Relatively speaking.)

About The Peetimes: This was a fairly simple film to get Peetimes for. Here are 3 evenly spaced Peetimes that don’t feature any big emotional moments or plot points.

There are extra scenes during, or after, the end credits of A Dog’s Journey. (What we mean by Anything Extra.)

Rated (PG) for thematic content, some peril and rude humor
Genres: Adventure, Comedy, Drama

Is A Dog’s Way Home a Sequel to A Dog’s Purpose?

Movie Review – A Dog’s Purpose

Movie Review – A Dog’s Way Home

Is A Dog’s Way Home a Sequel to A Dog’s Purpose?

a dogs way home by w bruce cameron
It’s sort of a sequel and definitely a reboot.

Well, is it a sequel? Yes. And no. It’s also kind of a remake. I’ll get to that in a minute.

A Dog’s Way Home and A Dog’s Purpose, both written by W. Bruce Cameron, are intended as the first two parts in a “shared universe” dog trilogy. This is slated to culminate in A Dog’s Journey later this year.

What both current movies have in common — besides, you know, dogs — is a desire to make their audiences cry. So if that doesn’t sound like a fun time, neither of these films are for you. At least try not to see them alone.

Another thing that stands out is how morbid both stories are. Life, death, and life again are repeating motifs in what on the surface would seem to be harmless family films. [pullquote]I don’t want to spoil any plots, but some freaky things happen in both Home and Purpose that make me wonder what the writer intends for the final film in his doggie-verse.[/pullquote]

One thing you might recall from A Dog’s Purpose is how the titular dog, in one of his lives, has a swim rescue scene where the actual canine actor almost drowned. That kind of terrifying real-life event can go on to sink a franchise, and the new movie will probably remind everyone of Peta’s Purpose movie boycott action: “No amount of spin from Hollywood will change the fact that being forced to do a terrifying stunt is not a dog’s purpose,” said PETA Senior Vice President Lisa Lange in a statement. “PETA is calling on kind people to boycott this film and send the message that animals should be treated humanely, not exploited as movie props.”

So  I’m a little surprised a follow-up got greenlit, and that the writer returned to the death-theme well once again.  [pullquote position=”right”]There’s one section with veteran actor Edward James Olmos that’s so upsetting I’m shocked A Dog’s Way Home doesn’t come with a disclaimer.[/pullquote]

I mentioned above that A Dog’s Way Home is also a remake, because the theme of ‘pet crossing the country to get home’ has already been told a few times on the big screen. The 1963 live action Disney film The Incredible Journey features a bull terrier, a lab mix, and a Siamese cat who band together to cross a vast distance and help each other through many dangers…and it’s still the film to beat.

Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey (1993) was a rebooted version with a few changes (this features the animals narrating, as does the one canine in A Dog’s Way Home), but is essentially the same story.

I’m willing to bet W. Bruce Cameron saw both of these movies.  🙂

Movie Review – A Dog’s Way Home

Movie Review – A Dog’s Purpose