A Film and TV Review by Tim Riley


Best-selling author W. Bruce Cameron has carved out a niche in his heartwarming stories about man’s best friend that become fodder for cinematic family-fare. If you’ve read the book or seen the movie “A Dog’s Purpose,” you get the idea.

Now along comes “A Dog’s Way Home,” another Smith adaptation, which explores a canine journey that also tugs on the heart. The dog in question is Bella (voiced by Bryce Dallas Howard), rescued from an abandoned home slated for demolition.

Finding a home with Lucas (Jonah Hauer-King), a medical student and worker at the VA hospital, and his mom Terri (Ashley Judd), a war veteran suffering from PTSD, Bella is adorable but nevertheless considered a pit bull outlawed by city ordinance in Denver.

Motivated by malice, the animal-control officer, corrupted by a real estate developer’s distaste for how Lucas has interfered with his plans to raze property inhabited by feral cats, captures Bella when she runs free in the neighborhood.

Lucas and his co-worker and eventual love interest Olivia (Alexandra Shipp) are devastated by the treatment of Bella, with Olivia calling out the city policy as basically “racism for dogs.”

Retrieving the lovable dog from the pound, Lucas and Terri have no other choice than to send Bella to live 400 hundred miles away with Olivia’s relatives in New Mexico.

Since Bella had been trained to be familiar with the notion to “go home,” she decides to do just that. Thus begins a long and often hazardous journey through small towns, forests and mountain ranges.

The quest to find Lucas affords our canine heroine a chance to meet all sorts of interesting characters of both the human and animal variety. Food and shelter prove not so easy to obtain, and this leads to some interesting situations.

Early on, Bella falls in with some four-legged friends who have a daily routine of dumpster-diving as well as begging for food scraps from a few humans only too willing to share leftovers and other treats.

When all alone on her journey, Bella becomes ingenious in how she steals food from a convenience store or a family’s backyard barbeque. These occasions lend themselves to a humorous touch.

Out in the wild, Bella witnesses a pair of hunters killing a cougar, befriending its cub left behind. This act of kindness has ramifications later on when Bella is confronted by a pack of vicious wolves.

Considering that the journey takes over two years, Bella lives for a time with a gay couple who found her when hiking. Later on, Bella becomes attached to a homeless veteran (Edward James Olmos) who needs companionship.

“A Dog’s Way Home,” targeted for family entertainment and appealing to dog lovers, is so heavy on sentiment for the love of furry companions that one is likely to get misty-eyed. That will be the case when Bella is reunited with her family.