It’s a tale as old as time – boy meets dog, boy and dog form an unbreakable bond, boy and dog are tragically separated and then dog spends two-and-a-half years trekking 400 miles to get back to boy. Based on the novel of the same name by W. Bruce Cameron, A Dog’s Way Home is a canine adventure film designed to pull on the heartstrings.
A companion film to the 2017’s A Dog’s Purpose, A Dog’s Way Home sees Bella (portrayed by dog actor Shelby, voiced by Bryce Dallas Howard) rescued from an abandoned building by Lucas (Jonah Hauer-King) and his veteran mother Terri (Ashley Judd). The antagonist of the film Chuck (John Cassini), a malicious employee of the animal control department labels Bella a dangerous Pit Bull. Pit Bulls are banned in the city of Denver, so Bella is sent to live on a family farm while Lucas and Terri look for a place to live outside of Denver.
Unaware that Lucas will return for her, Bella takes it upon herself to “go home!”. She escapes from the farm and so begins her epic cross-country trek back to Lucas. Despite forming friendships with unlikely animals and ending up in the care of various people from all walks of life, Bella never strays from her mission to return to the boy who rescued her as a puppy.
The film is narrated by Dallas Howard in a hyper, over-excited voice. The other animals do not speak, meaning everything is filtered through Bella’s often limited perspective. The voice-over paired with the boppy soundtrack keep viewers engaged, even in the slower parts of the film.
Although angled as a family-friendly adventure film, A Dog’s Way Home may deal with issues too sensitive and frightening for young children. Parents and guardians should be aware that the film includes depictions of death and animals in peril. Animal lovers should take a box of tissues with them – W. Bruce Cameron puts Bella in quite a few distressing situations.
The plot of A Dog’s Way Home is layered with a social justice theme, raising awareness of depression, homelessness and poverty. Often these issues are examined with a heavy hand, but this can be forgiven as the film maintains its ability to appeal to all members of the family. The plot is formulaic and doesn’t waver from the traditional animal-adventure film structure, making the film comfortingly familiar.
Anyone who has ever had a bond with a dog or needs to keep the kids entertained this weekend will get a kick out of this heart-wrenching movie.
Both dogs and cats appear in this movie, and are central to the plot, despite the film being titled A Dog’s Way Home, making no reference to a Cat.