Reviewed by: Blake Wilson
Caring for a dog
Anthropomorphizing of animals—the attribution of human characteristics, purposes or behavior to an animal—a literary device
RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN HUMANS AND ANIMALS—What relationship did our Creator intend when he created animals and Adam and Eve, living in the Garden of Eden? How did this relationship later change due to mankind’s sin/evil, God’s curse, and the worldwide Flood judgment?
What will the Biblical Millennium be like? Answer
Animals in the Bible
A character in the film lies and deceives? What does God say about LYING? Answer
Ashley Judd … Terri
Bryce Dallas Howard … Bella (voice)
Alexandra Shipp … Olivia
Jonah Hauer-King … Lucas, the dog’s owner
Edward James Olmos … Axel
Barry Watson … Gavin
Wes Studi … Captain Mica
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|Director||Charles Martin Smith—“Dolphin Tale” 1-2 (2011, 2014)|
Bona Film Group [China]
Columbia Pictures Corporation
T.D. Jakes (Progressive Liberal Pentecostal preacher)
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|Distributor||Columbia Pictures, a division of Sony Pictures|
“A lot can happen between lost and found.”
Bella’s story definitely has a rough beginning. Born a stray, her mother and a few of her siblings were taken by animal control, and she ended up being raised by a mother cat. Living under a condemned building, Bella’s cat family is fed by a friendly neighbor named Lucas. Upon seeing his kindness, Bella goes up to Lucas, and you can probably guess what happens then.
Upon growing up, Bella is threatened to be detained by Animal Control due to a law against pitbulls in the city of Denver. She is driven to a family friend’s house to reside, while Lucas and his mother (Ashley Judd) try to move to a different city. However, Bella believes she needs to find Lucas. So, she runs away and starts making her way home.
Story-wise, “A Dog’s Way Home” isn’t exactly unique in comparison to other dog stories. That being said, a couple of situations hinted at in the trailer don’t exactly play out the same way in the movie. I guess they were really smart with the marketing campaign here. Bella’s story is definitely full of the adorable moments you’d want to see in a movie like this. There’s also a few believably sad and intense moments. Besides that, I feel the subplot involving Bella raising an orphaned cougar kitten (though cute) goes on a little too long. It drags the film’s pace.
I did like how the cinematography switches between a dog’s point-of-view and ours. Sometimes it falls into the trap of giving away what happens next, but that’s not a big problem. There’s some breathtaking mountain shots. Meanwhile, the script also illustrates a dog’s perspective fairly well (with some humorous results). Mychael Danna does a wonderful job with the score, and I appreciate how the film doesn’t rely on big names to carry the movie. Besides Judd (who is good, as always), the only other big name in the cast is Bryce Dallas Howard who voices Bella. Howard’s sweet-natured personality and voice are a nice match for the character, even if she may lack the genuine enthusiasm Michael J. Fox provided in “Homeward Bound.”
There’s a few distracting obvious visual effects here and there.
You can tell that Bella truly loves Lucas. And like any good dog, Bella shows she would do anything to help and be there for him. And, true, selfless love for others plays a big part in this tale, and it’s not just from Bella. From Lucas and his mom’s tireless dedication to the VA hospital (the military is given a very respectful depiction in this movie), to the Mother Cat’s willingness to raise a puppy in the midst of her own litter, these characters exemplify Christ-like love. In fact, it’s the kind of selfless love that the Bible encourages in 1 Corinthians 13.
“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” —1 Corinthians 13:4-7
Besides that, some truly good characters willingly stand up against any wrongful mistreatment of animals.
Language: There is one moment where it sounds like someone is about to say the s-word, but its’ left hanging. There are three uses of “g*d,” and one use of “h*ll.” Besides that, milder interjections include “freaking,” “moron,” “Shaggy Butt,” and “cr*p.”
Violence: There are some perilous scenes. An avalanche happens, causing a bit of destruction. Someone is dug out of the snow. Bella is chased by wolves a few times, and later gets into a fight with one pack, resulting in a few mild gashes. Shaky cinematography and some loud noises may make this a little much for very young viewers. A cougar attacks a bunch of wolves. A homeless character chains Bella, and he later dies. Bella seems to nearly die from lack of food or water, but she’s later rescued. We hear a gunshot and see a dead panther. Dead animals are seen in a few moments. In one other scene, a dog runs out into the middle of a freeway, causing a car accident, and is hit by the side of a car, badly injuring her leg in the process.
Adult Content: A couple of outfits reveal a bit of cleavage. When Bella gets home, we see Lucas and his wife Olivia share a bed together (a picture of their marriage in the background confirms the relationship).
One of the many stops on Bella’s journey involves her being taken in by a same-sex couple. The two males don’t show any real affection on screen, but they are shown wearing wedding rings, and they drink wine together. They appear for about 10 minutes of the movie.
Drugs/Alcohol: Bottles/glasses of wine are seen in a couple of scenes. We hear references to being “euthanized.”
Other: Bella steals food for her survival. A couple breaks into private property on repeated occasions. A property owner attempts to demolish the remains of the building where Bella’s cat family lives. It is suggested later that the property owner tries to get revenge on Lucas by having Animal Control take Bella away from him. Lucas and others break VA hospital rules by having Bella visit. They also intentionally hide her when the doctors come in. However, the hospital is shown to later allow dogs for therapeutic purposes.
I grew up in the era of great dog movies. My personal favorites growing up were “Homeward Bound,” “Air Bud,” “Because of Winn Dixie,” and “Zeus and Roxanne” (1997). There was an old-fashioned charm about them that was just purely irresistible. Dog movies were also among my grandmother’s favorites, and she would always get excited when a new one was coming to theaters.
Upon seeing “A Dog’s Way Home,” I felt this is one she would have enjoyed (she passed away last summer). However, I don’t feel it lives up to any of the best dog movies. There’s a sweet (if formulaic) story here, but it falls short of being memorable. It drags a bit too much at times, and also carries a few situations that some might call a bit ridiculous. Now, it’s not nearly as ridiculous as the most recent pet flick, “A Dog’s Purpose” (both movies are based on books written by W. Bruce Cameron). However, some of the execution of the more dramatic and emotional elements of the story lean a tad sappy.
Is the movie as family-friendly as other dog movies? I think parents should be aware of a few content problems. Bella gets herself into some pretty dire situations that are perilous, as well as very saddening. Some of the people she runs into are also a bit threatening. And, I was sad see the filmmakers had to include a politically-correct homosexual couple part in this movie. Inclusion of this secular, anti-Biblical lifestyle is unfortunately becoming more and more prevalent in kids’ and family films nowadays. These issues will push the film out of bounds for many families, especially ones with younger, more impressionable children.
That being said, “A Dog’s Way Home” delivers mostly what people expect, while not hitting the genre’s bulls-eye for me, personally. It’s nonetheless, a heartwarming and refreshingly low-key film that carries some very amusing moments. But, if you want a true classic dog movie, I would highly recommend one of the other movies I list above.
See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.