A Dog's Way Home


            This is one of those feel-good movies for dog lovers.  Sure, there are some shortcomings:  sometimes the CGI isn't top-quality.  The device of overdubbing what the dog is thinking in a human voice (Dallas Bryce Howard) devolves into cloying sentimentality.  Though it tries very hard to be charming, there's little or no humor in the story of a loyal dog trying to find its way home to her master.

            The conflict inherent in the story is Denver's well-publicized ban on all pit bulls (after a couple of incidents of attacks on humans).  Therefore “Bella” can't be found loose on the street, or the over-conscientious dog catcher will take her to the pound.  And if it happens again, he says, the dog gets euthanized.

            The owner, Lucas (Jonah Hauer-King) is understandably upset about the law and the way it is enforced, but he is, after all, the kind of guy who would have a dog in an apartment that doesn't allow them, either.  Lucas, trying to protect Bella, sends her off to live with his girlfriend's out-of-town uncle and aunt, but Bella escapes in order to find Lucas.  And the journey through the wildnerness begins.

            Bella teams up with some other “loose” dogs to find food in trash cans (along with some prime snacks from generous humans).  Bella “adopts” a cougar kitten after her mother was killed by hunters, in the same way a mother cat “adopted” him when his own mother was corraled by the dogcatchers.

Of course, we'd all like to believe that a pit bull and a cougar kitten would get along famously, but it definitely feels like CGI when they lick each other's faces and sleep cuddled together for warmth.

            Just to make sure we aren't dissing all law enforcement, we not only visit an animal-friendly VA whose patients suffer from war-zone PTSD, we also meet a police captain who understands that not all laws have to be rigorously applied in every instance.  Bella also finds herself attached (literally) to a homeless vet, who says she helps his tip jar, but he won't let her off her leash, or out of his sight.

            Of course it is moving to see such loyalty in a dog, that Bella tries so hard to return home to her Master, Lucas, even if it's not the same house as before.  And even though there's some inconsistency in how the dog manages to still search even after a leg injury. 

            But this is one where we don't really need to sweat the details, anyway, since it's all about tapping in to the considerable depth of emotion present in dog lovers of all ages.  This one really is appropriate for the whole family.


Dr. Ronald P. Salfen, DFW Film Critics Association