A Dog's Way Home

Jacob Richardson | 04/03/2019

A painfully dull, derivative exercise that works hard to erode any joy canines bring you.


While fighting for the preservation of a number of stray cats, young medical student Lucas (Jonah Hauer-King) stumbles across a stray puppy. After navigating the difficulties of keeping the small Bella in his rented home, coupled with scheduling difficulties from his school work, volunteering and Veteran mother (Ashley Judd), Lucas then finds out that his dog is classified as a pitbull. This is problematic in Denver, as pitbulls are outlawed and euthanised when found outside of a residence. To prevent this dramatic fate, Lucas sends Bella hundreds of miles away to a friends property, only for her to run off before he can join her. Now, Bella must traverse hundreds of miles of wilderness to make her way home to Lucas.


There are a myriad of issues that stem from this horridly bland, turgid piece of celluloid. The painfully vanilla Lucas is a significant issue; a consistently strange combination of inability to emote and overcompensatory emotion. Every time he graces the screen, the mind drifts off into a world of plain white walls, tip-top bread and vanilla ice cream. That’s coupled with a broad range of cardboard cutout supporting characters that consistently grate away at any goodwill the constant barrage of cute puppy images provides.


Worse still is Bryce-Dallas Howard’s perpetually upbeat performance as the voice of Bella. Playing an animal whose consistently poor choices almost lead to its own death, the persistently optimistic tones of Howard frequently feel out of place, irksome and frankly insulting.


More insulting, though, is the direction of the piece. A Dog’s Way Home is never self-conscious about gratuitously yanking on the heart strings, but it insists on doing so in the most condescending way possible. Director Charles Martin Smith uses the voice of Bella to explain even the most mundane of emotions, thoughts and events. The problem is, most good movies wouldn’t explain this through voice over; they would assume the audience could pick things up from visual and other audio cues. Charles Martin Smith thinks so little of his audience that he explains every little thing, and it is infuriating.


Then there is the VFX. The animation of the ‘Big Cat’, effectively a big mountain cat, is horrid, but not nearly as bad as the animated Bella that is used in lieu of the real dog when playful interaction with Big Cat is required. It’s just yet another that takes you out of the movie, in a film that seems intent at every moment on shattering the illusion of believability.


By the end of the movie, with horrible acting, poor visuals, a staid storyline and directorial choices that will have you grating your teeth in fury, you’ll be begging for either the light at the end of the tunnel, or the lights of the cinema you’re in, to come up.


A disgraceful mess of a film that will have you clawing your way out of the cinema.