Sequel to 'A Dog's Purpose' is as emotionally complex as a greeting card

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Cute pup, but the story's a real dog. 

That's the case with "A Dog's Journey," the sequel to 2017's all-dogs-are-reincarnated fable "A Dog's Purpose," which is much better at conveying the things we think are going through dogs' minds than it is at telling a human story.  

Josh Gad voices a series of canines, all different breeds, and he speaks with the kind of friendly, casual tone we'd love to hear coming out of our puppers.

"Mornings have the best smells," he says as Bailey, the St. Bernard–Australian shepherd mix that belongs to Ethan (Dennis Quaid) and Hannah (Marg Helgenberger), a Michigan farm couple who have discovered how truly devoted man's best friend can be. (Author W. Bruce Cameron, who wrote the book on which the film is based and is a co-author of the screenplay, is from Petoskey.)

Their daughter, Gloria (Betty Gilpin), doesn't like dogs, and because of the film's inability to convey nuance, she is made out to be a drunk and a neglectful mother to her daughter, CJ (played by Abby Ryder Fortson, and later Kathryn Prescott). CJ grows up to find versions of Bailey watching out for her over the years, a nice thought that the film takes dead literally. 

This is the type of movie where all characters are either "good" or "bad," nothing in between, and the only emotions are "happy" and "sad." It's as if it was written from the emotional mindset of a dog. Of course it goes for the weepies, because it only has a few cards it can play, but "A Dog's Journey" isn't worthy of your tears. You can love dogs and still admit when a movie is one, too.  

'A Dog's Journey'

GRADE: C-

Rated PG: for thematic content, some peril and rude humor

Running time: 108 minutes

agraham@detroitnews.com

@grahamorama

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