No, you're not mistaken - this is the second film from the 'A Dog's Purpose' universe to hit cinemas this year. This time around, we get a direct sequel to the 2017 hit that brings back Dennis Quaid (Footloose', 'Kin') and once again Josh Gad ('Frozen', 2017's 'Beauty And The Beast') as the voice of the main hound - as opposed to 'A Dog's Way Home', which was a spin-off.
Bailey is now an old St Bernard Shepherd mix living with Ethan and his wife Hannah on the farm. They also now live with Gloria (Betty Gilpin, 'Stuber', 'True Story') who was pregnant with her partner's child when he passed away in the war. CJ (Emma Volk as the toddler, Abby Fortson as the child, and Kathryn Prescott as an adult), their child, is now a toddler and as Gloria becomes unhinged after her the death of her fiancé, doesn't get along with his parents, causing them to move out. When Bailey gets sick and passes away, Ethan tells him "to take care of CJ." Bailey now finds himself as a female beagle named Molly and starts his quest to find and take care of CJ. The film follows CJ all the way through to adulthood as we see Bailey re-born into many different dogs.
This film knows its demographic and just runs with it, giving them cute dogs and soppy melodrama. you could sit here and dump all over it easily, but this film is in no way harmful. Yes, they manipulate the audience to tears, but that's what the audience wants. You go to action movies for the fun, comedies to laugh, and dog movies to cry - and 'A Dog's Journey' really wants you to cry. From the constant dog deaths to the unfit mother subplot - and, of course, a cancer subplot - there are plenty of tears to be shed here; your mum will eat it up.
That's not to completely forgive the movie - it is filled with flaws. They do everything they can to emote a reaction from the audience. For instance, the way they have written Gloria as this evil, horrible, drunk, neglectful mother is horrendous; she may as well be the devil herself because she is treated like pure evil by the other characters. She is the only character that I really had a problem with; the rest are fine, just bland beings for the melodrama to happen to. The film continues the major flaw of the first film, and that's Josh Gad - almost everything he's in, he seems to be extremely annoying and frustrating to watch. He's doing this cutesy, whimsical voice and it's just plain irritating, never feeling like he's the voice of these dogs. It simply feels like Josh Gad is saying random dog thoughts. Dennis Quaid is fine for most of the film, but at the end, they have to age him up and he is overdoing trying to be old, overly smiling and shaking in an odd acting choice.
You go to action movies for the fun, comedies to laugh, and dog movies to cry - and 'A Dog's Journey' really wants you to cry.
An interesting tidbit: at one point, they turn on the TV and 'Friends' is on for a split second, the episode 'The One Where No One's Ready' with Joey's line, "Well, I could be going commando." This is baffling to me because this isn't a Warner Bros. film, so this must have been somewhat expensive and it's such a quick thing, so I just don't understand why it was included, or that line specifically.
'A Dog's Journey' is just like the other films that preceded it - if you want cute dogs, you'll get cute dogs and that's about it. Sure, it's manipulative at times, but three films in, the audience and filmmakers know the dog film checklist like the back of their hand.