Cat people can still find something to love in “A Dog’s Journey.”
“If you’ve ever loved an animal, there’s something in this movie for you. At the end of the day, it’s really about that thought that your animals are always with you and that some part of them is continuing on, and I think that’s a lovely thought for everyone,” producer Naia Cucukov told Variety at the movie’s premiere at the ArcLight Hollywood on Thursday night.
The film continues the story from 2017’s “A Dog’s Purpose,” in which Bailey, a golden retriever voiced by Josh Gad, becomes reincarnated into different dogs throughout time before finally reuniting with his owner Ethan (Dennis Quaid). “A Dog’s Journey” sees Bailey embody more dogs to help Ethan’s granddaughter CJ (Kathryn Prescott) with her own struggles as she grows up.
“It pulls the heartstrings in the right way. It’s a really unique way of telling an inspirational story about finding your inner strength, forgiveness and redemption,” producer Frank Smith told Variety. “Dogs evoke so much emotion.”
The screening of the film was complete with a faux grass carpet, fire hydrants and giant tennis balls for some of the canine celebrities to play with, like Quaid’s miniature English bulldog, Peaches. The actor joked that he felt “upstaged” by sharing a carpet with his dog and that Peaches’ next big role would be in a Martin Scorsese film. Having dogs on the carpet and on set was certainly a highlight for the cast and crew.
“I had a better time than anybody because while I was supposed to be sitting there working, I’d be out playing with the dogs,” said W. Bruce Cameron, screenwriter and author of the books on which the movies are based. “I’d arrive on set and then go straight to the dogs. I’d be there until I’d feel like, ‘You gotta go. You can’t play with the dogs all day, they have work to do.'”
However, the old adage of never working with animals proved to be true at some points during filming.
“It certainly made it a lot more spontaneous and patient. As well trained as the animals were, they don’t necessarily do what you want them to do when you want them to do it,” said actress Marg Helgenberger. “Having said that, they were all wonderful dogs and going to their trailer between takes and knocking on the door, saying, ‘Who can come out and play?’ was a great way to unwind.”
Prescott added that not knowing what dogs are about to do “makes you a better actor because you can’t do what you rehearsed, you have to react to them in the moment.” Twelve-year-old actor Ian Chen, from ABC’s “Fresh Off the Boat,” also had high praise for his canine co-stars.
“They’re better actors than me, they’re faster than me, they beat me,” he said.