The “lost dog finds their way home” genre is a guaranteed way to get hearts fluttering and tears flowing. It’s an easy and simple story that has found success time and time again in film. A Dog’s Way Home is weird because on one hand it fits the genre to a T, but on the other it’s one ridiculous scene after another where absolutely nothing makes sense. It’s a fascinating trainwreck that left me wondering what I had just watched.
Puppy Bella (voiced by Bryce Dallas Howard) loves everything about her owner Lucas (Jonah Hauer-King), but when animal control threatens to take her away and put her down because she’s classified as a pitbull, she is sent 400 miles away to live with someone else temporarily while Lucas finds a more accepting community for him and Bella to live in. Bella doesn’t understand this and runs away to find Lucas and return home, thus beginning her long journey through treacherous forests where she’ll meet the unlikeliest of friends.
First off, the trailer for the film are a bit misleading. They show Bella running after a squirrel, implying that’s how she got lost, but in reality there’s this whole drama between Lucas and a neighbor who’s trying to demolish a house that has cats living underneath it and Lucas won’t let him. So animal control gets involved and Bella moving 400 miles away is all because of politics. I also found it ridiculous that everything was perfect – Lucas had found a new home and was on
his way to pick up Bella – when she decides to run away. I couldn’t help but laugh at it.
Things only get more absurd from there. While wandering the woods, Bella encounters a baby mountain lion that she becomes a mother to/best friends with. She also comes across a skier who gets buried by a avalanche (caused by Bella and another dog barking no less) and then gets temporarily adopted by this cute gay couple. Oh, and she also gets picked up by a homeless guy who then dies while she’s chained to him. This film has everything in it.
A Dog’s Way Home does have some heartfelt moments, particularly towards the beginning when Bella is just a puppy and of course the reunion at the end, but everything else is just bonkers. It doesn’t help that the CGI is pretty terrible, too. Nearly every animal at the zoo gets the CGI treatment in this film. There are squirrels,wolves, a rabbit, a moose, fish, and of course the mountain lion. Even Bella becomes a creepy digital avatar of herself a couple of times. I can understand the mountain lion since it’s integral to the story, but I’m not sure why they needed to fit in so many different animals when they all look so bad and distracting.
A Dog’s Way Home is more suited for television like the Hallmark Channel or Freeform, not theaters. Bryce Dallas Howard brings some liveliness to the voice of Bella, but there’s not much else. There are plenty of dog videos on the internet that are far cuter and more heartwarming than A Dog’s Way Home.