NEW YORK (CNS) — Bailey (voiced by Josh Gad), the beloved pet featured in 2017’s “A Dog’s Purpose,” returns for another adventure in “A Dog’s Journey” (Universal).
The sequel initially finds Bailey living the good life with Ethan (Dennis Quaid), the man who in youth rescued and adopted him, and Ethan’s wife, Hannah (Marg Helgenberger).
He’s also getting to know CJ (Emma Volk), short for Clarity June, Ethan and Hannah’s granddaughter. CJ and her mother, Gloria (Betty Gilpin), have been living with Ethan and Hannah ever since CJ’s father was killed in a car accident while Gloria was still pregnant.
As CJ grows, however, Gloria feels her role as a mother is being threatened by her late husband’s parents. So, with CJ in tow, she moves away, much to Bailey’s chagrin.
Boss Dog, as Ethan calls Bailey, begins to feel his years and the vet comes to put him down.
Before going to sleep for good, Bailey hears Ethan whisper in his ear to make sure he takes care and protects CJ. Just as he did in “A Dog’s Purpose,” Bailey then finds himself reincarnated, this time as Molly, a Beaglier (a designer mix of Beagle and Cavalier King Charles Spaniel).
Molly manages to smell now-preteen CJ’s (Abby Rider Fortson) scent when her best friend, Trent (Ian Chen), comes to claim a puppy from the same litter. CJ smuggles Molly into her home because Gloria can’t stand dogs.
The glimpses of CJ’s domestic life are heartbreaking. Gloria is so immature that CJ must fend for herself. Trent and Molly are her only friends and together they get up to some mild mischief.
Molly continues her journey with CJ as the latter reaches adolescence (Kathryn Prescott). The adorable pooch fulfills Ethan’s mandate time and again as CJ encounters troubles at home and in her budding relationship with Shane (Jake Manley), an ill-advised bond that turns dangerous.
As CJ ages, so does Molly, and when her time comes to die yet again, she loses track of CJ for a while.
An aspiring singer-songwriter, young-adult CJ makes her way to New York, where stage fright hampers her career. Walking dogs to pay the rent, she encounters the next version of Bailey, a cute little Yorkshire Terrier called Max. The question is, how will Max/Bailey fulfill his ultimate purpose?
Gad once again brings his comedic talent to bear; Quaid and Helgenberger are just classic as CJ’s grandparents; and Prescott and Henry Lau as adult Trent have a chemistry the audience can sense just as easily as Bailey can.
With a screenplay by W. Bruce Cameron (based on his novel), Maya Forbes, Cathryn Michon and Wallace Wolodarsky and directed by Gail Mancuso, “A Dog’s Journey,” celebrates family, reconciliation and loving loyalty. Though suitable for most moviegoers, a couple of challenging incidents, together with the reincarnation theme, make this a less-than-ideal choice for tykes.
The film contains a nongraphic scene of attempted sexual abuse, a car accident and thematic material that could be confusing for kids. The Catholic News Service classification is A-II — adults and adolescents. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG — parental guidance suggested. Some material may not be suitable for children.