Parting is such sweet sorrow for Big Dog.
Big Dog, played by an African Boerboel named Phil, has a small role, portraying a chance meeting with his spiritual owner CJ, now an adult played by Kathryn Prescott, in a roadside store. Phil hit his marks, and gave a hearty paw-shake. But the soulful-eyed dog hit dramatic paydirt when he bid farewell forever to CJ.
“When hes saying goodbye as hes leaving, its so sad that it made me cry,” Prescott says.
You can see every scene coming from miles away, including the happy ending, because you’ve seen it before.
In this case, the appeal is in the telling, and in the characters. Gad’s delightful commentary, taken from the book and added to the screenplay by author Cameron, who was responsible for both, is aided and abetted by the cuteness of the canine cast. “Don’t ever ever work with kids or dogs” became a Hollywood mantra for a reason: Both are gonna steal the show.
A friend of mine saw the original movie, and asked me on Facebook when I mentioned I’d be reviewing the sequel, “How many times do you have to see the same movie?”
There’s Bailey, a Great Pyrenees Bernese Mountain Dog whose real name is Buddy; Molly, a beagle-spaniel mix; Big Dog, an English mastiff; and Max, a Yorkshire terrier. Somehow, all four manage to convey the continuity of the same personality. Of course, most of that comes from the dialogue, but serious credit needs to go to trainers Tracy Gardhouse, Ryan and Trisha Judd, Stephanie Stanton-Linder, Crystal Van Meer, Courtney Voth and Brandy Yeager.
I remember sobbing in my vet’s office as my black Lab Butchie took his final breath, my tears soaking his fur when I finally stopped being selfish and ended his pain. I never wanted to let him go, and I hoped he felt the same.
Buddy brought the beautiful heartbreak early.
Boss dog Buddy (a Great Pyrenees/Bernese Mountain dog mix) was played by three lookalike dogs, but mainly Odin, the films primary star.
Odin was tasked with dying in the lap of Buddys beloved owner Ethan (Dennis Quaid), which happens early in the film. It was already a Kleenex moment before Odin lifted his head for a final, soulful look into Quaids eyes and faded. “That look was pure magic,” Mancuso says. “That moment resonated with me, as I have experienced my own dog looking at me during our goodbye. Its a special bond.”
A Dogs Way Home: How Shelby went from junkyard stray to Hollywood star