A Dog's Way Home (3 stars)

A Dog's Way Home

Sunny and sentimental canine adventure, featuring the voice of Bryce Dallas Howard

The controversy surrounding 2017's A Dog's Purpose – which was accused and cleared of animal cruelty after footage emerged of a distressed German Shepherd – didn't stop it mustering an audience of fans. A follow-up, A Dog's Journey, is released later this year; A Dog's Way Home arrives first, and with a similar pedigree. From the same author, 'petsploitation' specialist W Bruce Cameron, standalone story A Dog's Way Home offers an equally commercially-minded mix of cuteness and sentiment.

The titular route is from New Mexico to Denver, Colorado, and the traveller is a pit bull mix called Bella – her inner-monologue voiced by Bryce Dallas Howard. Bella is trying to get back to her owner, dapper animal rescue volunteer Lucas (Jonah Hauer-King), who has taken her down south to stop her from being put to sleep by corrupt authority figures. Bella's love for Lucas sends her homeward bound, and she encounters wolves, a fake-looking mountain lion, war veterans, a gay couple and various natural phenomena on a picaresque voyage of enlightenment.

Disney's 1963 live-action drama The Incredible Journey seems to be the specific template for this latest doggy odyssey, that comes complete with a social conscience. Charles Martin Smith has form in the field, directing the lightweight Air Bud and A Dolphin's Tale, and he's on familiar ground here. Despite a few dark turns, A Dog's Way Home eschews the reincarnation structure that gave A Dog's Purpose such a morbid tone, instead it sports a sunny disposition that reflects Bella's own genial outlook. Cannily released amongst the high-minded awards season entries that can leave general audiences scratching their heads, this is simple, shamelessly manipulative fare for children of all ages. Those who like animals and a good cry need no more encouragement to share in Bella's adventures.

General release from Fri 25 Jan.

A Dog's Way Home

  • 3 stars
  • 2019
  • US
  • 1h 36min
  • PG
  • Directed by: Charles Martin Smith
  • Cast: Bryce Dallas Howard (voice), Jonah Hauer-King, Ashley Judd, Edward James Olmos
  • UK release: 25 January 2019

Bella (voiced by Howard) a pit bull mix, has plenty of adventures on her journey from New Mexico back to her own owner in Colorado. Simple, shamelessly manipulative fare for children of all ages, with a sunny disposition that reflects the heroine’s own genial outlook.