There are plenty of types of movies that I don’t have much ambition to see, like most horror films or the next Adam Sandler flick (although I still watch anything pre-Jack and Jill, and The Longest Yard remake is one of those movies I have to watch whenever it’s on TV). I also tend to stay away from most modern-day live-action animal films since they tend to be pretty atrocious, such as Brendan Fraser’s Furry Vengeance, or too much of a melodrama geared towards driving audiences to tears, like Marley and Me. But when you get the chance to go see a movie in the middle of the day with your deskmate/best friend/future roast master, Yitz, you suck it up and do it for the content.
A Dog’s Way Home opens just after a stray pit bull has given birth to a litter of puppies in the ruins of an old building. Also inhabiting this space is a family of kittens that have just been born. Together, they live in harmony until animal control shows up and takes the mother pit bull and all of the puppies, except for one, who is saved by “Mother Cat” and taken care of as one of her own.
Lucas (Jonah Hauer-King), an all-American looking college student who lives across from the caved-in building with his army veteran mother (Ashley Judd), stops by every day to feed the stray cats. When the young pit bull decides to introduce herself to the trustworthy human, Lucas adopts the puppy and names her Bella. Lucas raises Bella from puppy to full-grown dog.
As the movie progresses through the scenes of the growing friendship between Bella, Lucas, and other characters, we find out that pit bulls are banned in the city limits of Denver, Colorado after Bella has been picked up by animal control for the first time. Lucas decides to send Bella to his friend Olivia’s (Alexandra Shipp) aunt and uncle’s residence in New Mexico until Lucas and his mother can find a place outside of Denver.
After some sort of time passes, Bella, who is missing Lucas oh so much, escapes her temporary home on the same day Lucas is on his way to get pick her up and move in to their new house. What follows is a two-and-a-half year odyssey of Bella befriending a baby cougar, saving a hiker from an avalanche, being temporarily adopted, and chained to a dying homeless person’s body.
A Dog’s Way Home ended up not being as corny as I thought it was going to be. The movie does have some suspenseful scenes, a few tear-inducing moments, and it even attempts to hit on some social justice issues, albeit, not very well. When discussing how the classification of falling under the “pit bull” category is a fairly broad term, Olivia states, “That’s basically racism for dogs.” Nothing else is ever mentioned about debunking the many stereotypes that are attached to pit bulls, though.
The script and cast are mostly underwhelming. The human characters don’t feel very connectable, which is probably why the acting is so predictable and stale. But the film succeeds in showing how impactful a dog can be. Bella is the star; she’s lovable, cute, and she endures a challenging journey. With her ability to form meaningful bonds with everyone she comes across, you can’t help but root for her to make her way home.
How to View: If you’re a fan of movies that feature an animal in the lead role, or looking for a movie to watch with your significant other, A Dog’s Way Home isn’t a terrible choice to watch at home.