While A Dog’s Journey never looks any better than a TV movie, it is more satisfying than “A Dog’s Purpose,” largely because it revolves around a single human-canine relationship.
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A Dog’s Journey is certainly manipulative - humans aren’t safe here either, with a significant cancer side-plot. At times, it even seems obsessed by death. Yet there’s something oddly cathartic about sobbing your way through this film, with its mash-up of Buddhism and All-American values.
I suppose it’s a genuine achievement that a movie packed with as much delightful canine (and agreeable human) talent as this one should be so insufferable.
One wishes the film were a bit more inventive with its dog’s-eye view: the odd ground-level action shot aside, there isn’t much to cinematically suggest how animals see the world differently.
Director Gail Mancuso, a TV comedy veteran, gets the desired effect — as manipulative as it may be — out of both the funny scenes and the sad ones, leading up to a finale that can only be described as weapons-grade tearjerker material.
The whole schtick of these movies is the treat-motivated, not-quite-getting-it doggie voice-over, performed by Josh Gad, and it lightens the film. But going dark and emotional makes the film work better than the prior two.
Don't tell anyone I said this, but the result is not only pleasingly emotionally purgative, but also has some elements worthy of genuine admiration, despite the fact that the third word in the title is one that should now be entirely banished from the English language for its precious, psychobabble connotations.
By their very nature, dog lovers may be more forgiving and enthusiastic, but much of it is reaction shots of trained mutts, right through to the closing-credit snapshots of the crew’s Forever Friends, this movie is almost literally all puppy eyes.
A big, juicy bone for canine-focused humans, but much less of a treat for others.