“Isle of Dogs” was a more truthful animated movie that served as a haiku to the abused dogs in this world, whereas “A Dog’s Way Home” seems like a Disney Nature splice between “Homeward Bound” and “Milo and Otis.” To put it bluntly, it features a narrator dealing with both nature and society, while featuring a dog and a cat (actually a cougar) in this story.
“A Dog’s Way Home” is in the style of “A Dog’s Purpose,” in which the narrator is the dog’s thoughts. In this movie, Bryce Dallas Howard voices an illegal pit bull named Bela. “Illegal,” because she lives in Denver, Colorado, where they’re illegal, because they’re judged as dangerous.
Nonetheless, she finds a potential owner-a young man named Lucas (Jonah Hauer-King), whose mother (Ashley Judd) is a PTSD-stricken vet, and whose girlfriend Olivia (Alexandra Shipp) is an animal’s rights activist. Animal Control cracks down hard, and threatens to euthanize Bella, if she’s caught again. And when Lucas sends her to Olivia’s relatives until they can relocate to an easier home, Bela misunderstands her situation, and takes the long journey in the wild back to Lucas.
The reason this movie serves as a “Milo and Otis” and “Homeward Bound” splice is because of Bela’s adventures in the wild, and her friendship with a cougar cub, who she calls “Big Kitty.” You can tell CGI effects were used for the cougar, but the way she narrates her story sounds like she’s reading lines for a Disney Nature film.
There are moments in “A Dog’s Way Home” when you feel something, and moments when you feel it’s annoying. Why did we need a subplot about dogs being illegal in a certain city? Why not make the dog more intelligent than a regular dog, and not have her whining like a little kid being separated from his/her parents? And why not hear voices from other dogs? Did the filmmakers worry it would look like “Look Who’s Talking Now?” I don’t know, but that’s a lot of questions I’m asking about the movie.
The touching moments in the movie include Bela’s happy relationship with Lucas and his friends and family. Howard does find a way in your heart, aside from the silly narrating. And the Colorado landscape presented here looks clean and beautiful.
This movie, based on W. Bruce Cameron’s book and directed by Charles Martin Smith (“Dolphin Tale”), has a lot of potential, but it just has to be typical and annoying.