Australian Council on Children and the Media

A Dog’s Journey

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Not recommended under 10. Parental guidance to 13. (Violence, Scary scenes, Adult themes).

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This topic contains:

  • overall comments and recommendations
  • details of classification and consumer advice lines for A Dog’s Journey
  • a review of A Dog’s Journey completed by the Australian Council on Children and the Media (ACCM) on 20 August 2019.

Overall comments and recommendations

Children under 10 Not recommended due to violence and adult themes.
Children aged 10–13 Parental guidance recommended due to violent and disturbing themes.
Children over the age of 13 Ok for this age group

About the movie

This section contains details about the movie, including its classification by the Australian Government Classification Board and the associated consumer advice lines.

Name of movie: A Dog’s Journey
Classification: PG
Consumer advice lines: Mild themes
Length 108 minutes

ACCM review

This review of the movie contains the following information:

A synopsis of the story

A Dog’s Journey is the sequel to the beloved 2017 film A Dog’s Purpose, both based on the bestselling books written by W. Bruce Cameron. The sequel is based on the many lives of Bailey the dog (voiced by Josh Gad), who is reincarnated again and again with the purpose of finding an owner to protect and love. The movie begins with Bailey living on a farm with his ‘boy’, Ethan (Dennis Quaid) and Ethan’s wife Hannah (Marg Helgenberger). When Hannah’s son tragically dies his widow Gloria (Betty Gilpin) and their little daughter Clarity June “CJ” (Emma Volk) come to stay with them. CJ loves life on the farm and Ethan and Hannah adore her. However, grieving the loss of her husband, Gloria struggles to care for CJ and her insecurities and selfishness cast a shadow over their lives. Feeling as though Hannah is trying to take CJ away from her, in a fit of anger and grief Gloria suddenly decides to move away with CJ. Ethan and Hannah are devastated. Bailey feels their pain and soon after, as Bailey lays dying, Ethan asks him to come back to find CJ and protect her at all costs. This begins Bailey’s adventure through multiple lives as ‘Molly’, ‘Big dog’ and ‘Max’ in order to love, help and protect CJ. ‘Molly’ helps a lonely, 11-year old CJ (Abby Ryder Fortson) cope with her alcoholic, neglectful mother. Many years later in New York City, ‘Max’ again finds CJ (Kathryn Prescott) in need of love and companionship and reunites her with her childhood best friend, Trent (Henry Lau). Together they experience joy and heartbreak, music, love and laughter and finally returning home.

Themesinfo

Children and adolescents may react adversely at different ages to themes of crime, suicide, drug and alcohol dependence, death, serious illness, family breakdown, death or separation from a parent, animal distress or cruelty to animals, children as victims, natural disasters and racism. Occasionally reviews may also signal themes that some parents may simply wish to know about.

Family breakdown; Death; Reincarnation; Alcohol dependence; Repeated death of dogs; Neglect; Domestic violence; Serious illness; Relationships

Use of violenceinfo

Research shows that children are at risk of learning that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution when violence is glamourised, performed by an attractive hero, successful, has few real life consequences, is set in a comic context and / or is mostly perpetrated by male characters with female victims, or by one race against another.

Repeated exposure to violent content can reinforce the message that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution. Repeated exposure also increases the risks that children will become desensitised to the use of violence in real life or develop an exaggerated view about the prevalence and likelihood of violence in their own world.

There is some violence in this movie including:

  • An aggressive young man grabs teenage CJ roughly and Molly bites at his leg to make him let go. The man leaves yelling, “I’m gonna kill that stupid dog”.
  • CJ’s ex-boyfriend pursues CJ and Molly closely in his truck as they drive at night. CJ keeps trying to get away from him and becomes more scared as the chase continues. After he rams her car with his truck CJ loses control, causing her car to flip over, flying into the air and landing upside down into on-coming traffic. CJ is battered and cut in the accident but survives, however, Molly is fatally injured and lies amongst the shattered glass. CJ is devastated as she tries to help Molly. CJ appears visually distressed as she witnesses her beloved dog die. The scene is intense and very emotional and could be distressing to many viewers.
  • As an adult, CJ’s boyfriend grabs her arm aggressively to stop her from leaving. Max and his canine friend growl and bark at the guy until he lets go.

Material that may scare or disturb children

Under fiveinfo

Children under five are most likely to be frightened by scary visual images, such as monsters, physical transformations.

In addition to the above-mentioned violent scenes, there are some scenes in this movie that could scare or disturb children under the age of five, including the following:

  • When little CJ crawls into a horse enclosure. She is nearly trampled by an aggressive horse that keeps pounding the ground with his hooves and begins to charge her. Bailey saves her by getting in front of the horse and alerting Ethan to the situation. Ethan arrives just in time to save both CJ and Bailey from injury. The accompanying music signals danger and this scene is likely to frighten younger viewers.

Aged five to eightinfo

Children aged five to eight will also be frightened by scary visual images and will also be disturbed by depictions of the death of a parent, a child abandoned or separated from parents, children or animals being hurt or threatened and / or natural disasters.

In addition to the above-mentioned violent scenes and scary visual images, there are some scenes in this movie that could scare or disturb children aged five to eight, including the following:

  • Bailey is put-down by the vet using an injection to his leg. This is clearly distressing for Ethan and Hannah.
  • Gloria often leaves CJ alone at night while she goes out with guys. One night there is a thunderstorm and CJ wakes up terrified, only to find that her mother has not come home. CJ hides with Molly in her blankets as they quiver in fear while the storm rages on. The loud crashing of the thunder and the fact that both CJ and Molly are terrified is likely to frighten some children.
  • Molly rips a stuffed animal apart and later trashes the basement.
  • Max is run over by a car as he tries to cross the road. He flattens himself against the pavement and survives.
  • The repeated death of the dogs, especially Molly who is killed in the car accident and dies in CJ’s arms, is likely to be distressing.

Aged eight to thirteeninfo

Children aged eight to thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic threats and dangers, violence or threat of violence and / or stories in which children are hurt or threatened.

In addition to the above mentioned violent scenes, there are some scenes in this movie that could scare or disturb children aged eight to thirteen, including the following:

  • Trent is diagnosed with cancer and undergoes chemotherapy. He loses his hair and looks visibly pale. CJ appears visually distressed by the news which may upset viewers.

Over thirteeninfo

Children over the age of thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic physical harm or threats, molestation or sexual assault and / or threats from aliens or the occult.

It is unlikely that children over the age of thirteen would be frightened by anything further in this movie.

Product placement

The following products are displayed or used in this movie:

  • There was no overt product placement in the film though in one of his lives Bailey loves to eat Cheetos and Beef Jerky.

Sexual references

There are some sexual references in this movie, including:

  • Teenage CJ tells a young male to get off when he grabs her. When she tells her intoxicated mum that a man attacked her, Gloria blames her, saying, “did you provoke him or something?”
  • A standing dog looks between its forelegs to a point we cannot see and says, “Nope, I’m a girl this time.”
  • The dog comments on people “licking each other’s faces” to refer to people kissing.
  • Ethan and Hannah share a romantic dance in their kitchen.

Nudity and sexual activity

There is some nudity and sexual activity in this movie, including:

  • CJ and a guy she meets at a convenience store kiss passionately in the front seat of his car.
  • Kissing couples at a party.
  • Gloria often wears very skimpy, revealing outfits; tight tops, short shorts, plunging necklines, etc.
  • Kissing scene between CJ and Trent. The dog comments on how they are licking each other’s faces.
  • Gloria stays out all night and brings a man home for breakfast.

Use of substances

There is some use of substances in this movie, including:

  • Gloria is clearly an alcoholic. She is often seen drinking or with a wine glass in her hand in front of her young daughter. Gloria often slurs her words and Molly remarks how she smells of alcohol.
  • A boy at a party deals drugs, exchanging small packets for money.
  • Teenagers are drinking at this same party and CJ is encouraged to have some beer. When police are called CJ is caught holding a cup of beer and is arrested.

Coarse language

There is some coarse language in this movie, including:

  • Stupid
  • Idiot
  • Dumb
  • Exclamation, “Oh God”
  • “Chubby” is used as an insult
  • A dog sticks his nose into a woman’s rear end, pushing her into a baby pool and says “maybe you wanted to stick your nose in my butt”

In a nutshell

Best suited to families with older children/teenagers, A Dog’s Journey is a feel-good, funny and emotional drama that tugs at the heartstrings. The movie touches on serious themes but also offers powerful messages about friendship and love.

The main messages from this movie are to learn to love without condition, that humans are always happier with companionship (be it human or canine), that we are not meant to go through this life alone and that we always end up where we are meant to be.

Values in this movie that parents may wish to reinforce with their children include:

  • Resilience
  • Self-belief
  • Forgiveness
  • Empathy
  • Perseverance and persistence
  • Loyalty
  • The strong bond between people and their pets.
  • The importance of loving friends and family.

This movie could also give parents the opportunity to discuss with their children attitudes and behaviours, and their real-life consequences, such as.

  • Alcoholism and the effects that excessive drinking can have on relationships.
  • Abusive men/boyfriends and victim blaming.
  • The negative impact of ‘fat shaming’ on one’s self-esteem, especially when done by people you are close to.
  • The damaging effect that the mother’s neglect had on CJ’s life.
  • The importance of choosing your friends carefully and trusting your instincts.
  • Asking for help when necessary and being there for your friends even when no one else is.

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