A Dog's Journey

Movie review by
Sandie Angulo Chen, Common Sense Media
A Dog's Journey Movie Poster Image
Parents recommendPopular with kids
Sequel is as sentimental and emotional as the first film.
  • PG
  • 2019
  • 108 minutes

Parents say

age 11+
Based on 19 reviews

Kids say

age 9+
Based on 14 reviews

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Strong messages about the life-changing bond, unconditional love, and connection between dogs and their humans. Promotes idea that people aren't meant to go through life alone, that they're happier and more fulfilled with both human partners and animal companions. Clear themes of empathy, perseverance.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Ethan and Hannah continue to be wonderful role models: kind, helpful, disciplined, loving. They take good care of Bailey and CJ. The dog always believes his/her purpose is to defend, protect, and love his/her human companions, nevers stops looking for or protecting his/her human. CJ is lonely and sad at times but loves her dog and her best friend, Trent, who's supportive, generous, encouraging. Gloria is an alcoholic and neglectful mother but eventually takes responsibility, asks for forgiveness.


A dog dies on different occasions. In one particularly painful scene, Bailey dies in Ethan's arms receiving a euthanizing shot. Another version of Bailey dies in an accident, others die of old age. An abusive boyfriend purposely crashes into his ex-girlfriend's car. Another boyfriend is verbally demeaning, grabs his girlfriend. An older adult dies surrounded by people (and pet) he loves. An alcoholic mom is neglectful, leaving her daughter alone a lot of nights. A girl is frightened of a storm, upset that her mother isn't around.


A married couple embraces, dances, briefly kisses. Teens make out in a car. From dog's perspective, a young couple "licks each other's faces" -- like Ethan and Hannah used to when they were younger. At one point, the dog narrates, "They look like they want to lick each other."


Infrequent language includes a few uses of "idiot," "dumb," and "stupid." A mom hurls the word "chubby" like an insult. "Oh my God" as an exclamation.


Recognizable brands include Dodge, MacBook, iPhone, Slim Jim, Cheetos, Whole Foods, Ford, and Jeep.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Quite a bit of drinking by Gloria, who's nearly always shown with a glass of wine or a cocktail in her hand. She's clearly an alcoholic and is often drunk. Shane is obviously a drug dealer -- he exchanges cash for small packets at a party. Minor character smokes cigarettes.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that A Dog's Journey is the sequel to 2017's sentimental A Dog's Purpose, both of which are based on W. Bruce Cameron's best-selling books about a dog (voiced by Josh Gad) that's reincarnated again and again with the purpose of finding a specific human to protect and love. This time around, Ethan (Dennis Quaid) encourages his beloved dying dog to return to find his granddaughter. There's less violence in this one, but there's still an alcoholic, neglectful parent (this time a mother) and an abusive boyfriend who literally crashes into his ex-girlfriend on purpose. Another boyfriend is verbally demeaning and grabs his girlfriend; a minor character smokes. And, yes, the central dog dies -- four times, to be exact, due to sickness, old age, and accidents. But couples don't do much more than hug and kiss, and language is tame ("idiot," "stupid"). As in the first movie, there are clear messages about empathy and companionship, as well as the power of having a pet with whom humans share unconditional love.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Parent of a 5-year-old Written byFootballCourtney May 17, 2019


We had high expectations for this movie, but ultimately regretted taking our children. The dogs were cute, but the writing felt emotionally manipulative, lacked... Continue reading
Adult Written byAGR1227 May 18, 2019

Alot of emotion

Took my 12.5 yo old dd and her friend to see this. It was very much like the first one, except for the added drama of the drunken and neglectful Mom of CJ, and... Continue reading
Teen, 17 years old Written byletsrateit May 18, 2019

Great movie, heavy story

This movie is really great!! However, the story is very heavy and sad. The mother is an alcoholic and literally doesn't care that her daughter has been att... Continue reading
Teen, 13 years old Written byBubbleyangel1 May 30, 2019


I went and watched the movie today, and oh my gosh!! I loved it. I would revoke watching the first one, ‘A Dogs Purpose’.
Both of these have quickly made it up... Continue reading

What's the story?

A DOG'S JOURNEY -- the sequel to 2017's A Dog's Purpose -- is, like the first film, an adaptation of W. Bruce Cameron's best-selling books about a special canine whose memories are reincarnated into a new dog each time it dies. As the sequel begins, Ethan (Dennis Quaid), his wife, Hannah (Marg Helgenberger), and their beloved dog, Bailey (voiced by Josh Gad), are living on their Michigan farm and taking care of Hannah's toddler granddaughter, CJ, and widowed daughter-in-law, Gloria (Betty Gilpin), after the death of her son. When Gloria, who's angry and neglectful in her grief, takes CJ away to Chicago, Hannah and Ethan are distraught. Right before Bailey eventually dies, Ethan asks him to come back for CJ. And that's what happens: The dog returns as Molly, a puppy that 11-year-old CJ (Abby Ryder Fortson) adopts, while her best friend, Trent (Ian Chen), adopts Molly's brother Rocky. Years later, CJ (now Kathryn Prescott) continues to be "Bailey's" purpose, even after more dog deaths and CJ's move to New York City to pursue a music career.

Is it any good?

Emotional and syrupy sweet, this sentimental sequel is a tribute to the enduring bond between dogs and their human best friends. Veteran TV director Gail Mancuso continues Lasse Hallstrom's poignant touch with the story, which switches from focusing on Ethan to CJ. The CJ storyline is less violent than younger Ethan's, but it's still filled with heartbreak, a parent's substance abuse, sadness, and loneliness (save for lifelong friend Trent).

Gilpin is well cast as a selfish, disinterested mother who cares more about warning her daughter about the dangers of getting "chubby" than actually parenting her. Prescott is believable as a vulnerable, unfulfilled young woman whose greatest comfort has always come from her dog. And Henry Lau is almost too good to be true as the earnest adult version of Trent. Gad's voice is eager and steadfast as the various incarnations of Bailey, and, unlike in the first film, A Dog's Journey, audiences stay with the same family of dog owners throughout the story (with the exception of one quick detour). This movie definitely and effectively pulls at the heartstrings, so pet lovers in particular should expect tears to flow at the many tender moments between CJ and Ethan and their dogs. There's even a subplot about one of the dogs being able to detect cancer by scent, an ability a later dog can also display -- with life-saving results. For dog fans, this is a movie that affirms the kinship between humans and dogs; for others, it's a treacly sweet take on some serious issues.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the violent/upsetting scenes in A Dog's Journey. Why do you think they were included? Can a movie have violent parts and still be family friendly?

  • What do the human characters learn from their dog? How does the story promote empathy? How does Bailey's journey, lifetime after lifetime, exemplify perseverance? Why are those important character strengths?

  • How does the movie portray drinking? Are there realistic consequences? Why is that important?

  • How does the movie address grief, especially in relation to losing a pet? Have you ever had to deal with that? What made you feel better?

  • What do you think about CJ and Trent's friendship? How is their relationship different from the other romantic relationships depicted in the movie? What's the message about friends who become more?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love dogs

Character Strengths

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