After the surprise success of the filmed dog novel “Bailey – A Friend for Life”, the sequel follows in the old Hollywood tradition. And it’s something to be proud of, because director Gail Mancuso has it all A Dog’s Journey (BAILEY 2 – A DOG RETURNS) turned on the correct screws.
The plot summary
Dog Bailey (original voice: Josh Gad) is getting on in years. He used to romp around the meadows with his master Ethan (Dennis Quaid) and even introduced him to his current wife Hannah (Marg Helgenberger), but now the good-natured male is taking it easy. The couple and Bailey are particularly fond of Ethan and Hannah’s granddaughter Calista Jane – CJ for short. But CJ’s mother Gloria (Betty Gilpin) has been completely overwhelmed since her husband’s death. She dreams of a career as a singer and neglects her daughter because of it. Nevertheless, one day she takes CJ with her when she hastily leaves her parents’ farm and tries to build a new life for herself in the city. First of all, CJ has to deal with this all on his own. But she soon meets the young dog Molly via a detour. What CJ doesn’t know: Molly contains the soul of Bailey, who has since died. And as he was dying he gave his master a promise to take care of his little girl forever…
A Dog’s Journey Movie Meaning & ending
With production costs of 22 million US dollars and grossings of over 200 million, we can confidently speak of a success. However, this was not to be expected; on the contrary. Lasse Hallström’s film adaptation of the novel “Bailey – A Friend for Life” opened in 2017 under the most unfavorable conditions. Allegedly, applicable animal protection regulations were violated during the filming. There was even talk of animal cruelty, as a result of which animal lovers called for a boycott of the film. Such negative headlines still follow the sequel, but it hasn’t produced any new ones. In general, A Dog’s Journey is a whole lot more likeable than its predecessor, which is not only due to the fact that the characters at the center of the action are much more impressive, but also due to the choice of the USA voice actor: Florian David Fitz, who lent his voice to Bailey in the first part, was no longer available for the sequel. And that’s a good thing, because without a celebrity in the dubbing studio, the concept of a talking dog that has been reincarnated several times seems far more believable on this level.
Of course, you have to get involved (again) with the sometimes quite macabre premise. As cute as the various reincarnations of Bailey’s soul may look, it will probably hurt a younger audience when they have to say goodbye to him at regular intervals. Sometimes Bailey simply dies of old age, other times he is the victim of a traffic accident; No, “Bailey 2” is not really a family film – at least as long as very small family members are present. That’s not what Dennis Quaid’s later stands for this time (“I Can Only Imagine”) The focus was not on Ethan, but on the career of Ethan’s granddaughter CJ. And it would actually be quite exciting even without a dog. Although the team of authors, which also includes the author of the novel W. Bruce Cameron, presents the story in a very straightforward manner and you can anticipate some of the twists if you have ever seen any social drama about a neglected child before, the dog’s perspective is what gives the story its edge a special twist. As with part one, the following applies here: If you have a dog, you will probably love it even more afterwards than before. And everyone else will want to buy one now at the latest…
Newcomer Kathryn Prescott (“Polaroid”) the confused CJ in her youth mimes with absolute dedication and impresses both in her interaction with the two-legged and four-legged actors. As a young girl, “Ant-Man” favorite Abby Ryder Fortson slips into her role and once again captures everyone’s sympathy. If the actress, who has now been working in the film business for six years, keeps up her mischief, she could have an even bigger future in Hollywood than she already has. While at the beginning of “Bailey 2” it is Fortson’s joy of life that is contagious, in the second half it is CJ’s displeasure with her living conditions that makes you feel sorry for her – and through which the dog’s role as a comforter and soul mate becomes particularly pronounced comes into effect. It seems all the more devastating when CJ has to say goodbye to exactly this again and again – but we’ve already covered that topic.
While A Dog’s Journey is of course primarily a typical “dog film” and there are some fantasy elements due to the reincarnation scenario, the story works even better as a coming-of-age story and tender romance. What is particularly impressive is the restraint regarding the relationship between CJ and her best friend Trent (Henry Lau). Although it is clear from the beginning that the two will probably leave the film as a couple, the film still manages with a single kiss, which makes the friendship and emotional connection between the two even stronger. Newcomer Henry Lau (“Final Recipe”) But he embodies the ambitious Trent as well as the epitome of the popular figure – you simply wish you had a best friend like that. All of this can largely compensate for the very clear weaknesses of the film, because like the first part, the sequel doesn’t come without some badly constructed twists and a whole lot of kitsch, especially caused by the sometimes very naive voice-over out of. Although it is interesting that director Gail Mancuso (“Modern Family”) uses the film to draw attention to important topics such as dogs in cancer research or the abuses in US animal shelters. However, their authors cannot plausibly bring all of this together, so that the plot seems to be held together very makeshiftly at times. But that’s the only way everything will be okay in the end – and that’s probably how it has to be, so that even a film that focuses so prominently on the topic of death like “Bailey 2 – A Dog Returns” is still thoroughly enjoyable in the end It’s a feel-good film.
Conclusion: A Dog’s Journey tells a more mature story than the first part and benefits from a more convincing voice actor in the role of the title dog. And although the story threatens to fail at times due to kitsch and overconstruction, in the end you leave the cinema with a remarkable feeling of well-being.
A Dog’s Journey can be seen in USA cinemas from June 13th.