Tag Archives: Charles Martin Smith

Puppy Love

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And, really, Denver, what gives with those outdated laws?

Heart of the Ocean


Dolphin Tale 2

by George Wolf


After seeing the trailer for Dolphin Tale 2, a friend of mine remarked, “Wow, did someone order extra cheese?”

That’s a good line, and a fair point, but the entire film spreads the schmaltz out much more evenly, resulting in a sweet, satisfying family film.

The entire cast returns from part one, along with director Charles Martin Smith, who also adds writing duties. His workmanlike script is based on more true adventures at the Clearwater Marine Hospital where Winter, the inspirational dolphin with a prosthetic flipper, has been acting strangely.

Her longtime pal Panama has passed away, and if the hospital staff can’t find a suitable replacement¬† to provide Winter some essential social interaction, they will lose her to a Texas facility. Injured dolphin Mandy might be the answer, but when she recovers enough to return to the open ocean….what to do?

Meanwhile, Winter’s human buddy Sawyer (Nathan Gamble) has been offered a great opportunity to earn college credit on a live-aboard marine biology expedition, but he can’t seem to commit. He’s hesitant to leave not only Winter, but his mother Lorraine (Ashley Judd) and his best friend Hazel (the charming Cozi Zuehlsdorff).

Yes, the symbolism Smith employs with a child leaving the “nest” and an animal in the wild is obvious, but it’s handled in such an earnestly sweet way that the melodrama never becomes overbearing.

Same goes for almost everything in the movie. The characters lack depth, the dialogue is often superficial and the plotting reeks of an after school special…but there’s a mighty big heart here, and a nice message, too.

Together they let Dolphin Tale 2 exist in a world where cynicism doesn’t stand a chance, and sometimes, that’s a refreshing place to be.