Movies

An emotional dog’s journey

Sequel to A Dog's Purpose is full of warm feelings

A Dog's Journey continues the story of 2017's hit dramedy A Dog's Purpose, and finds reincarnated dog personality Bailey (voiced by Josh Gad) happily ensconced in the form of Buddy and living with his owners Ethan (Dennis Quaid) and Hannah (Marg Helgenberger) and their growing family.

The "pack" has been joined by toddler CJ, the daughter of Ethan's stepdaughter-in-law Gloria (Betty Gilpin).

When the grieving Gloria takes CJ to live in Chicago, Ethan asks a dying Buddy/Bailey to help CJ navigate her life growing up, and the stage is set for another heartwarming tale of feelings and family.

US actor Quaid, 65, returns for a second round as Ethan in the sequel, which is directed by Gail Mancuso and currently showing here.

How was Gail as the director for A Dog's Journey?

Gail was fantastic, she brought a real different take to it.

Whereas Lasse (Hallstrom, director of A Dog's Purpose), is very improvisational in that European way, Gail is very structured and she brought a very nurturing quality, because it is about a family.

The first one, I think, is about an individual's relationship with a dog - Ethan's as an old man and a younger man.

This one is more like how a dog is a divining rod for a family's emotional well-being or unrest and also trans-generational; now Bailey is going to take care of the granddaughter.

Your latest pet is Peaches, a 1½-year-old miniature English Bulldog. Does being a lifelong dog lover and owner make it easier to work with them onscreen?

Yeah, for sure. Dogs have, just like us, certain cues that are common among us. We raise our eyes when we are astounded at something, they have a similar set of expressions and cues, their own language, really.

One of the big scenes has Ethan and Hannah as older people. How was the make-up?

It was about four hours every day, and then an hour to take it off, that was the hardest part of the movie, personally.

But so well done. They did an incredible job and it has come so far.

I had done this on other movies, going back into the 1980s, and really, it has come a long way and it is so real. It even feels real to the touch. But it is startling too, because I would fall asleep and wake up four hours later saying, "Oh, I had a hell of a night!"

It is a film that deals with darker subjects. Is that a challenge to make it work in a film like this?

Because it is being told through a dog's eyes, it is a great way to teach children about real life. Parents are not perfect, the world is not an idyllic place, and just like when you tell a story with a puppet to a child, it is an easier thing for them to accept.

Do you think it is important to have films like this to help teach kids about the world?

I do, and dogs are also, for kids, the first time that you take care of something other than yourself, to have responsibility for another being.

The parents always wind up doing the heavy lifting, but at least (there is) the awareness that you are responsible for feeding it, and taking care of something else, rather than expect everyone to be room service for you.

The secret of this movie in particular is that people come to it with stories of their own dogs, past or present, and they bring that with them. Which is the reason why it has such a deep emotional impact for people. Knowing you are going to lose a pet is part of life too.

You and Helgenberger have played husband and wife before, in 2004's In Good Company. How was it reuniting?

We did not even need to talk about it, hardly. She is really easy to work with and we have great chemistry. We had bumped into each other once in a while in the intervening years, but we picked right up. I had a lot of trust in her, this is our second pretend marriage.

How long does it take to pull off the jumping stunt that Ethan and Bailey perform?

That was something that showed me how great a director Gail is. She set up the shots to where you believe the dog and I knew I was not going to look silly.

They will split it into chunks, and they have the dog jumping off a table to catch the in-air shots. And they will use a double dog, who is maybe a little lighter. Good for me!

What are you hoping people take away from the movie this time?

I hope that they are entertained. That it was worth their time.

It is not something that is out to save the world or change it. I just love the story and I hope it resonates with others like it did for me. Like all the dog movies that I saw when I was young, like Old Yeller. This is better than Old Yeller, because the dog dies but he comes back. Or The Shaggy Dog, Rin Tin Tin. I never really got into Lassie, I never got emotionally involved. I guess she was too beautiful, it was like a model trying to make it work.

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