Talking animals usually make for sure-fire hits, from Mr. Ed to every Disney movie ever been made, to last year’s A Dog’s Purpose.
But A Dog’s Way Home is not one of them.
Telling the story of Bella (voiced by Bryce Dallas-Howard), a young mutt being raised by a cat on a construction site after her own mother is taken by the dog catcher, A Dog’s Way Home throws everything it can think of at this poor pup.
When Bella is taken in by Lucas (Jonah Hauer-King), a young doctor and his mom (Ashley Judd), a recovering veteran, Bella happily spends her life learning tricks, napping and occasionally cuddling with someone at the Veteran’s hospital where Lucas works.
But all that changes when a dogcatcher with a grudge (oh that I was joking) decides Bella is a pit bull and bans her from the city. Apparently in the city of Denver if three dogcatchers agree a dog “looks like a pit bull” then the dog is officially a pit bull.
Bella doesn’t look like any pit bull I’ve ever seen, but let’s not confuse that with the facts. Banished, she goes off to live with Lucas’s girlfriend’s aunt and uncle in New Mexico (stay with me here) until Lucas and his mother can move to a nearby town that doesn’t ban pit bulls.
Once she arrives, Bella decides she must go home to Lucas and runs away in what becomes a two-year, 400-mile journey back to her boy.
Along the way she is hunted by coyotes, becomes the adopted mother of a cougar, is rescued by a loving couple, and kidnapped by a homeless veteran with mental health issues. To say it’s a rough trip is an understatement.
I’d like to say A Dog’s Way Home is a mediocre but passable kids movie. But the truth is many of the situations Bella finds herself in are WAY TOO scary (a coyote attack I couldn’t watch) or intense (the encounter with the homeless veteran ends in a way that would generate YEARS of conversation) for kids.
And Bella’s poetic musings rule out anyone over the age of 12 watching for fear they’d roll their eyeballs right out of their skulls.
In reality, this film has about enough substance for a four-minute “dog’s wild journey” YouTube video, not a full-length feature.
If you have a hankering for cute animal videos, satisfy it on your phone. That will save you 96 minutes I can never get back.
Vicky Sparks is a Bright’s Grove native and movie critic for Global TV’s The Morning Show, which airs nationally on Fridays. Her Journal Reviews cover movies playing at Galaxy Cinemas Sarnia