A Dog's Way Home Movie Review - Child-friendly entertainer
This adaptation based on a book by W. Bruce Cameron and co-scripted by Cameron and Cathryn Michon incorporate all the best-loved traits that herald dogs as man's best friend and more.
A Dog's Way Home
U/A: Adventure, Drama, Family
Director: Charles Martin Smith
Cast: Ashley Judd, Edward Olmos, Wes Studi, Alexandra Shipp, Jonah Hauer-king, Patrick Gallagher, Barry Watson, John Cassini, Tammy Gillis, Motell Foster, Chris Bauer, Brian Markinson, Broadus Mattison, Rolando Boyce
An imaginary first-person account of a Stray puppy, Bella's (played by Shelby the Pitbull with Bryce Dallas Howard giving voice) life after it was rescued from a dump by Lucas (Jonah Hauer-King) and his VA mother Terri (Ashley Judd), 'A Dog's Way Home' is exactly what the title suggests. Bella is separated from Lucas and Terri and finds herself on a 400-mile long journey to reunite with her beloved adopted family. Along the way, the lost but spirited Bella learns some hard-fought survival skills, plays mother to an orphaned mountain lion, becomes a faithful companion to a destitute Veteran, is responsible for saving the life of a man buried in an avalanche and also befriends some strangers who cross her path.
This adaptation based on a book by W. Bruce Cameron and co-scripted by Cameron and Cathryn Michon incorporate all the best-loved traits that herald dogs as man's best friend and more – giving Bella's epic journey a sense of purpose while edging her ambition to reunite with her family, an empathetic and heart-wrenching effect. Bella is the epitome of selfless, friendly, loving, endearing, fun loving and is sure to keep you enraptured throughout this less-than-two-hour adventure plotted around humanist themes and canine-friendly effects. The film would have definitely been more engaging if Bella did not have her human voice (Dallas Howard, though strongly emotive) telling us this story. That's probably the most jarring feature in this largely adorable 'NatGeo' like capture of a canine's persevering attempts to get home.
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The background score incorporates heartening pop tunes – the most memorable being a cover version of Bill Withers' "Lean on Me." The narrative doesn't break any new ground though, as it uses predictable beats - visual clichés to render familiarity and slapstick to lighten the mood. But there are lessons to be learnt about unfair laws and treatment of pets in general too. The story does well to illuminate the joys of pet ownership while touching on social issues like post-war trauma, depression, homelessness and veteran care. Director Charles Martin Smith, who has 'A Dolphin's Tale' and its sequel, among other films to his credit, makes this doggie's exploits a relatively harmless and largely enjoyable one. He even manages to get ameliorating performances from the rest of the cast. This is definitely child-friendly entertainment at its best.
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