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It can be easy to feel a little déja vu at the movies these days with so many remakes afoot. In 2019, this may feel like it happened two times over when it comes to heartwarming dramas centered on dogs and their owners. Hint: it’s not all in your head. Since A Dog’s Purpose became a box office success in 2017, novelist W. Bruce Cameron has pumped out two follow-ups that have come out within months of each other: A Dog’s Way Home; and now, a direct sequel to Purpose, A Dog’s Journey.

My advice: if you haven’t yet checked these movies out, skip out on the other two and fetch this one up. For those already following the trilogy: rejoice (!) because A Dog’s Journey is the best one yet. It’s heartwarming, funny and unexpected at times – and for a movie like this, the latter is ruff to achieve (sorry, had to do it). Dog lovers will especially fall to pieces for this one, and there’s plenty of room in the human stories for cat people to enjoy this chapter, as well.

A Dog’s Journey centers on a dog named Bailey (voiced by Josh Gad) who has been reincarnated over and over as other dogs of various breeds over the course of around 60 years. This story began back in A Dog’s Purpose with Bailey’s relationship with Dennis Quaid’s Ethan and his wife Hannah (played by Marg Helgenberger, who replaces the late Peggy Lipton). This time, the movie has a more tightened focus on their granddaughter CJ, who is torn away by her mother as she deals with the aftermath of her husband’s death and becoming a single parent.

As Bailey approaches death, Ethan asks the dog to protect CJ in his next lives and he takes it to heart throughout A Dog’s Journey. The movie has Bailey’s dog forms being a part of her life as a kid, teen and adult. Admittedly, the ways in which Bailey keeps coming across CJ can be a bit ridiculous. But it’s entertaining to watch her grow up with Bailey by her side, and her coming-of-age storyline has a few profound things to say about self confidence, friendship and forgiveness.

After years of “dogs are a man’s best friend” stories, A Dog’s Journey benefits from this new spin. It also helps that CJ’s childhood bestie Trent is along for the ride, as well. The two (played by Kathryn Prescott and Henry Lau) share a sweet dynamic not often portrayed as earnestly on the big screen and are enough to really make this movie shine.

Another improvement from the original is how cleverly Josh Gad’s voice performance is utilized this time around. We may have director Gail Mancuso to thank here since she’s helmed various sitcoms such as Friends and Modern Family over the years. Bailey’s dog commentary often hits the right beats and often compliment the story well -- though yes, they sometimes are as corny as one might expect.

Sure it’s a whole lot of fluff but you just can’t help but go along and pet this story as it strolls along. Whether it be through CJ’s many meet-cutes with the dogs or the touching moments that aim to coerce all the tears out of you, A Dog’s Journey somehow makes it work. It’s reminiscent of the charm of Homeward Bound , and it deserves credit for daring to talk through some teaching moments usually not found in a PG family movie. You’ll “ohhhh” and “awwwww” at the puppies as they appear on screen, and likely end up getting swept up for the adorable ride.

_A Dog’s Journey _is a familiar family drama. Audiences have seen this before. And it offers the mush and cheesiness that usually comes with sweet dog stories. Basically  if you’re in the mood for a flick of this type, there hasn’t been one made on the big screen of this quality in some time, so enjoy.

6 / 10 stars
Rating: movie reviewed star rating out of five
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