A Dog’s Way Home
by George Wolf
After the sledgehammer schmaltz of A Dog’s Purpose last January, director Charles Martin Smith takes over for the latest adaptation of a W. Bruce Cameron canine tale and chooses wisely by making a straight up kid’s movie.
Martin has the two Dolphin Tale films on his resume, so he knows his way around a family film, and I’m guessing he knew the only chance this one had was to aim it squarely at the youngest in the house.
Just think of it as Bryce Dallas Howard reading a big screen picture book to your kids for 90 minutes, as cute puppy Bella (voiced by Howard) over-explains all the goings on from the moment we meet her as a stray.
She’s adopted by Lucas (Jonah Hauer-King) and his mom Terri (Ashley Judd), and things are great until Bella runs afoul of the overly strict dog laws in Denver (who knew?). She’s taken in by friends in New Mexico until Lucas can sort it out, but homesickness leads to a backyard jailbreak, and Bella sets off on the long journey back to Colorado.
Bella gets into plenty of adventures along the way as her path crosses friendly people, mean people, CGI animal friends, predators and an amusing picnic-basket stealing or two.
Like A Dog’s Purpose, everything is painted with the broadest brush available. It is Martin’s altered viewpoint that makes this one much less painful to endure, even providing subtle teachable moments concerning diversity, veterans, homelessness and even same-sex couples.
Pretty good dog.
And, really, Denver, what gives with those outdated laws?