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Blu-ray Review: A Dog’s Way Home

April 23, 2019

By John Corrado

★★★ (out of 4)

Based on the 2017 novel by W. Bruce Cameron, who also wrote the book behind the film A Dog’s Purpose, A Dog’s Way Home is another story of the bond between humans and animals told from the point of view of its canine lead, this time focused on the unlikely journey that a beloved pet is taken on as she tries to get back to her owner.

The film centres around Bella (voiced by Bryce Dallas Howard, who provides the dog’s inner thoughts through voiceover narration), a stray dog who was raised by a feral mother cat under the foundation of an abandoned house.

She is rescued by Lucas (Jonah Hauer-King) and his friend Olivia (Alexandra Shipp), who keep going to feed the cats who are living on the property, and he brings the dog back to live with him and his mother Terri (Ashley Judd), who works at the VA office.

But when the sleazy owner of the abandoned house, Gunter (Brian Markinson), tries to bulldoze the property with the feral cats still living underneath, Lucas calls the city to alert them about the animals, forcing him to delay the demolition until they can be rescued. In retaliation, Gunter reports Bella and gets her designated as a pitbull, which are outlawed in Denver, Colorado, putting her life at risk. When she gets loose and is picked up by the rule-bound animal control officer Chuck (John Cassini), Lucas agrees to send her to live with relatives in Farmington, New Mexico. Bella escapes from the house in New Mexico, starting her over four hundred mile journey to get back home.

The animal control officer makes for a sneering and almost cartoonish villain, and these scenes feel contrived and predictable. This storyline functions more as a means to provide an inciting incident for Bella’s journey, and it’s the least interesting and most heavy-handed part of the film. But it’s the little moments along the way of Bella’s journey home, and the interesting collection of human and animal characters she befriends along the way, that make A Dog’s Way Home much better than expected.

There are a lot of heartwarming moments as Bella touches multiple lives over the several years that it takes her to travel home. She forms a bond with an orphaned cougar cub, bringing things full circle from how she was raised by a mother cat, in one of the film’s most touching subplots. The film also takes some unexpectedly darker turns that give added dramatic weight to the story, and the best scenes come when Bella becomes the companion to an elderly homeless man (Edward James Olmos), which gives way to a startling sequence that brings her close to death. It’s the darkest and most moving part of the film.

Directed by Charles Martin Smith, the veteran character actor turned filmmaker who is no stranger to animal-centred narratives following the two Dolphin Tale films, A Dog’s Way Home is a fine addition to the pantheon of movies about the bond between man and man’s best friend. The film is a bit uneven, but for every moment that feels a little forced, there is another that genuinely resonates. There are enough sweet and even touching scenes here to make A Dog’s Way Home an enjoyable and sometimes moving film to watch, charting the immense impact that one dog can have upon so many lives.

The Blu-ray also includes several deleted scenes and the three featurettes An Unforgettable Journey, Dog Days: Shelby’s Production Diary, and DIY Doggie Treats With Shelby.

A Dog’s Way Home is a Sony Pictures Home Entertainment release. It’s 96 minutes and rated PG.

Street Date: April 9th, 2019

One Comment leave one →
  1. April 23, 2019 8:55 am

    Reblogged this on Art by Nicole Corrado and commented:
    Many Ontario shelters gave screening contests due to the BSL (Breed Specific Legislation) theme of the film.


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