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MOVIE REVIEW

A Dog’s Way Home

also known as “Belos kelione namo,” “De Volta a Casa,” “Die unglaublichen Abenteuer von Bella,” “Egy kutya hazatér,” “Jedan pas se vraća kući,” “Mis huellas a casa,” “O psie, który wrócil do domu,” “Un viaggio a quattro zampe,” “Uno más de la familia,” «Путь домой»
MPAA Rating: PG-Rating (MPAA) for thematic elements, some peril and language.

Reviewed by: Blake Wilson
CONTRIBUTOR

Average (somewhat offensive)—with caution
Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
• Family • Adults
Genre:
Family Adventure Adaptation
Length:
1 hr. 35 min.
Year of Release:
2019
USA Release:
January 11, 2019 (wide—3,090 theaters)
DVD: April 9, 2019
Copyright, Columbia Pictures, a division of Sony Pictures click photos to ENLARGE Copyright, Columbia Pictures, a division of Sony Pictures Copyright, Columbia Pictures, a division of Sony Pictures
Relevant Issues
Copyright, Columbia Pictures, a division of Sony Pictures

Caring for a dog

Copyright, Columbia Pictures, a division of Sony Pictures

Anthropomorphizing of animals—the attribution of human characteristics, purposes or behavior to an animal—a literary device

Copyright, Columbia Pictures, a division of Sony Pictures

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

Copyright, Columbia Pictures, a division of Sony Pictures Copyright, Columbia Pictures, a division of Sony Pictures Copyright, Columbia Pictures, a division of Sony Pictures Copyright, Columbia Pictures, a division of Sony Pictures Copyright, Columbia Pictures, a division of Sony Pictures
Featuring: Ashley JuddTerri
Bryce Dallas HowardBella (voice)
Alexandra ShippOlivia
Jonah Hauer-KingLucas, the dog’s owner
Edward James OlmosAxel
Barry WatsonGavin
Wes StudiCaptain Mica
See all »
Director: Charles Martin Smith—“Dolphin Tale” 1-2 (2011, 2014)
Producer: Bona Film Group [China]
Columbia Pictures Corporation
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Distributor: Distributor: Columbia Pictures. Trademark logo.
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.

Entertainment Quality

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.

Positive Messages

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.

Content of Concern

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.

Conclusion

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.

  • Violence: Moderate
  • Profane language: Mild— • “Oh my G*d” • “Oh G*d” • “G*d” • “H*ll
  • Vulgar/Crude language: Mild
  • Sex: Minor
  • Nudity: None
  • Occult: None

See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.


Viewer CommentsSend your comments
Comments below:
Positive
Positive—It was a fine movie. Many cute scenes. Funny scenes. The thing that bothered us is, once again, the Gay agenda was thrust upon the viewers. Why do they have to include this in every movie, TV show, whatever these days? Thankfully, the two guys don’t cuddle or kiss or hold hands.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Better than Average / Moviemaking quality: 4½
anonymous, age 65 (USA)
Positive—I wanted to buy this movie, but won’t because of the same sex couple—at least it was done in such a way that it was hard to tell. Might send a negative message for my son. Might see it again on YouTube.

***SPOILER*** Also, homeless man chains dog to him and dies. ***END SPOILER***

Bella’s mom was probably euthanized because she was in Denver where only microchip could of saved her. Bella is half pit, if father wasn’t mixed and animal control only allow her to be saved once at their facility. Movie should be okay by about 10 and up, unless child is sensitive. Big kitten the cougar is cute. None of people that find dog is shown as religious.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Average / Moviemaking quality: 5
Regina, age 38
Negative
Negative—My husband and I took our two sons to see this movie after church this past Sunday. The movie was cute and family-friendly until the homosexual couple made their appearance. I was surprised and angered that this content had found its way into a movie clearly targeting young audiences. At first, it wasn’t completely obvious that the two males were a married couple, until one of the partners brought home a bottle of wine to celebrate one of the other partner’s accomplishments. Then it becomes apparent that they were living together as a married couple.

As I was processing what I was seeing, I decided to wait it out, as these characters are not main characters, so they only had about 10 minutes of screen time. My breaking point is when they put rainbow colored collars on the two dogs. The collars served as a reminder that the couple who took the dogs in were homosexual after the couple themselves were no longer on screen. At this point I got up and walked out of the theater, unable to finish the movie. I felt violated, as if this agenda was being forced upon me.

My children are teens, so they are aware that homosexuality exists in the world. What angered me most is that the theater was full of young impressionable children. For parents who raise their children according to Christian principles, it was very unfair for this lifestyle to be thrust upon them in such an unsuspecting way. We can’t control the content of commercials and advertisements that we are bombarded with on a daily basis, but we can control what we allow our children to watch on screen.

I think it would be fair to say that the film-makers used this “kid-friendly” movie as a means of promoting their own agendas. I would like to see Franklin Graham or James Dobson address this topic. I have looked and have not been able to find much of anything about this issue in this movie. That makes me think that not too many people are aware of it.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Extremely Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 4
Lisa, age 40 (USA)
Negative—My wife and I were truly disappointed in this movie. We went expecting to simply be entertained by the story of how a dog motivated by his love and loyalty for his owner though separated by miles and miles returned to find his owner through a long journey. The story line of this movie was totally eclipsed by the obvious need of the writers to make political points and to press their points to such extreme that the movie became an exercise in seeing just how many anti-conservative values they could attack and try to invalidate. The animatronics were cheesy. Not a good movie.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Very Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 2
Paul, age 65 (USA)
Negative—Too many messages in the movie to influence children contradictory to Christian values we teach them. Blatant homosexuality and mixed race relationships not necessary in children’s films. Sorry we took the kids to see it. Will pay close attention to directors, producers, and film company in the future to be sure to a avoid these. Also, not necessary to advocate breaking the law so obviously by entering the posted property, keeping a dog in contradiction to the lease and the city laws.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Very Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 1
Dave, age 66 (USA)
Comments from non-viewers
Negative—I will not take my daughter to see any movie with Ashley Judd in it. This is the woman who went on a profanity laced tirade at the Women’s March in our nation’s capital a few years ago. If, as Christians, we start exercising a little discernment about not just what type of entertainment we watch, but also who is providing that entertainment, we might just catch the attention of producers and casting agents and begin to make inroads in restoring our culture back to some sort of resemblance of decency and morality.
Jim Billingsley, age 61 (USA)

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