Texarkana, TX 70° Fri H 89° L 71° Sat H 84° L 72° Sun H 87° L 71° Weather Sponsored By:

'A Dog's Way Home' is a sweet but outlandish tale

'A Dog's Way Home' is a sweet but outlandish tale

January 10th, 2019 by Tribune News Service in Features

This image released by Sony Pictures shows Jonah Hauer King, left, and Ashley Judd, with dog Shelby, portraying Bella, in a scene from Columbia Pictures' "A Dog's Way Home. (James Dittiger/Columbia Pictures - Sony via AP)

With the proliferation of dog movies in the past couple of years, it's no surprise that the astonishing animal journey film would soon resurface. "The Adventures of Milo and Otis" and the "Homeward Bound" movies were wildly popular family movies in the 1980s and '90s, and now joining the canon is "A Dog's Way Home." It's based on a book by W. Bruce Cameron, who also wrote the source material for last year's "A Dog's Purpose." The film, directed by Charles Martin Smith and co-written by Cathryn Michon and Cameron, uses simple, formulaic storytelling to spin the tale of Bella, a rescued pit bull who makes her way home after a two-year walkabout.

"A Dog's Purpose" was about a beloved dog's spirit reincarnated into various dogs over the lifetime, living and loving new owners along the way. Bella's adventure is reminiscent of that tale. During her journey, she connects with different animals and people who care for Bella as she cares for them, from a homeless vet to a magnificent cougar known as Big Kitten.

The story is sweet enough, though totally outlandish. Bella is rescued as a puppy by a kind young man named Lucas (Jonah Hauer-King), who hopes the pup will help his mother (Ashley Judd), a veteran suffering from PTSD. But a cruel neighbor sics animal control on Bella—pit bulls are illegal within the city limits of Denver. Bella's sent to friends in New Mexico, but in a desperate attempt to play "go home" and reunite with her person, she makes a run for it and ends up on a wild romp through the Rockies on her way back.

There's just one element of "A Dog's Way Home" that yanks the audience right out of the film, and it's unfortunate because it's also crucial to the way the story unfolds. Bryce Dallas Howard voices Bella's inner monologue—a dogologue, if you will. It's written in such a childish tone, aping the perspective of a dog who understands just some aspects of the human world, that it lowers the discursive level of the whole movie to something quite childlike.

It's a confusing perspective given the scary and dire situations Bella has to navigate. Howard does her best with the material, but it's written in such a broad and silly tone it seems like it's from a children's program. Even Sally Field and Michael J. Fox were given senses of humor and nuance for the animal characters they voiced in "Homeward Bound."

As told from Bella's perspective, everything is emotionally oversimplified, gesturing toward Big Issues painted in big, broad strokes. Veterans are "sad," a negligent dog-owner "should be alone," Big Kitten needs a "mother." It makes for an odd match-up of storytelling style and content that doesn't quite gel.

Dog lovers will likely warm to the tale of Bella's quest to reunite with her person despite the odds and circumstances. One would have to be made of stone to not well up during the harrowing climax. But the resolutions are as outlandish as the journey itself. Did no one think to petition the city council to simply change the pit bull law? When the story lags, these are the flaws that pester, and even the cute factor of "A Dog's Way Home" can't obscure its narrative weaknesses.

 

'A DOG'S WAY HOME' 2 stars out of 4. Cast: Ashley Judd, Bryce Dallas Howard, Jonah Hauer-King, Alexandra Shipp, Edward James Olmos. Directed by Charles Martin Smith. Running time: 1 hour, 36 minutes. Rated PG for thematic elements, some peril and language.

Getting Started/Comments Policy

Getting started

  1. 1. If you frequently comment on news websites then you may already have a Disqus account. If so, click the "Login" button at the top right of the comment widget and choose whether you'd rather log in with Facebook, Twitter, Google, or a Disqus account.
  2. 2. If you've forgotten your password, Disqus will email you a link that will allow you to create a new one. Easy!
  3. 3. If you're not a member yet, Disqus will go ahead and register you. It's seamless and takes about 10 seconds.
  4. 4. To register, either go through the login process or just click in the box that says "join the discussion," type your comment, and either choose a social media platform to log you in or create a Disqus account with your email address.
  5. 5. If you use Twitter, Facebook or Google to log in, you will need to stay logged into that platform in order to comment. If you create a Disqus account instead, you'll need to remember your Disqus password. Either way, you can change your display name if you'd rather not show off your real name.
  6. 6. Don't be a huge jerk or do anything illegal, and you'll be fine.

Texarkana Gazette Comments Policy

The Texarkana Gazette web sites include interactive areas in which users can express opinions and share ideas and information. We cannot and do not monitor all of the material submitted to the website. Additionally, we do not control, and are not responsible for, content submitted by users. By using the web sites, you may be exposed to content that you may find offensive, indecent, inaccurate, misleading, or otherwise objectionable. You agree that you must evaluate, and bear all risks associated with, the use of the Gazette web sites and any content on the Gazette web sites, including, but not limited to, whether you should rely on such content. Notwithstanding the foregoing, you acknowledge that we shall have the right (but not the obligation) to review any content that you have submitted to the Gazette, and to reject, delete, disable, or remove any content that we determine, in our sole discretion, (a) does not comply with the terms and conditions of this agreement; (b) might violate any law, infringe upon the rights of third parties, or subject us to liability for any reason; or (c) might adversely affect our public image, reputation or goodwill. Moreover, we reserve the right to reject, delete, disable, or remove any content at any time, for the reasons set forth above, for any other reason, or for no reason. If you believe that any content on any of the Gazette web sites infringes upon any copyrights that you own, please contact us pursuant to the procedures outlined in the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (Title 17 U.S.C. § 512) at the following address:

Copyright Agent
The Texarkana Gazette
15 Pine Street
Texarkana, TX 75501
Phone: 903-794-3311
Email: webeditor@texarkanagazette.com