Released: 28th February
Seen: 24th February (Advanced Screening)
I didn’t start reviewing movies until about June of 2017. I was pretty slow for a few months when I first started doing this because I was in the throes of university so, at the end of the year, I decided to do a little game of catch up where I would go to my local library and rent movies I had missed throughout the year to watch them for review. One of those movies was A Dogs Purpose, which was instantly my worst movie of 2017, is still the most awful movie I’ve watched since I started reviewing and the front runner for my most hated movie of all time because I have no time or patience for a movie that tries to use dog death as a substitute for emotional quality storytelling. It’s a loathsome film that made $200milliion worldwide because God hates me. So when I heard that there was going to be a spin off movie I was already starting to whimper in irritation because I knew I’d need to see it, and I did… and congrats movie, you suck less than a movie with five dead dogs, this is the biggest compliment I intend on giving you.
A Dogs Way Home follows a dog named Bella (Voiced by Bryce Dallas Howard), a stray dog that lives on a construction site until a boy called Lucas (Jonah Hauer-King) comes and rescues her and takes her home with him. Bella loves Lucas and Lucas’ mom Terri (Ashley Judd) and wants to just live a very happy life at home with her family but, because this is a family film with a dog as the main character, the evil dog catcher comes to get Bella who is declared a pitbull because 3 people said she was and that’s enough! In order to save Bella, Lucas and Terri send Bella off to live with some of their friends, but Bella wants nothing more than to go home and so with the help of her friends Shadow and Sassy she heads off, bound for home and… Oh damn, I got this movie mixed up with Homeward Bound. Easy mistake to make because the story is effectively the same, except Homeward Bound is good.
I’m officially done with movies that decide that “Cute puppy is cute” is the only thing they need to have going for them. There is nothing else here, there’s a very sweet dog with a voice over that can’t decide if it’s telling a story or being dialogue for the main character. This makes for some awkward moments where the voice over is clearly meant to be dialogue and then, with no change in tone, is suddenly about the narrative. It’s bad, it’s really bad and it’s not even helped by the joyful performance by Bryce Dallas Howard who clearly was giving it her all but had nothing to work with because these movies do not care about basic fundamentals of storytelling. It’s cheap emotional manipulation, using an adorable dog to make you care without putting in anything else. I don’t need to go out and see a movie in order to get to see an adorable dog; I have two in my home and access to the internet where I can Google “Cute dog doing a cute thing” and get this amazing image of a dog with a flip phone that is a still from a video of a lot of cute dogs doing a lot of cute things
And now I have the exact same cinematic value as this movie. I’ll take my budget of $18million now!
This film also lifts from another awful dog movie in recent years, that being Show Dogs, because this film also has several non-dog animals that are so clearly CGI that it’s hilarious and instead of trying to make the animal behave like an actual dog might, they overdo the expressions on the bobcat in the film so it stands out so much more when it’s in a scene with the real dog. I’m aware that they couldn’t put an actual bobcat and a dog on the set together, that’s asking for trouble, but could you maybe not make it so obviously CGI? I don’t know what’s worse, the CGI bobcat or the dead veteran.
OH, oh yeah I forgot, this film has a big subplot about veterans and I genuinely liked that right up until the climax of that plot involves a homeless veteran dying from exposure while Bella is chained to the corpse. This storyline goes nowhere, we don’t even know if that veteran ever got picked up and taken to be buried and no one addresses how this is a major issue. They pay lip service to veterans, there are some cute scenes where the veterans are with Bella and try to hide her from the doctor in a moment that basically an elaborate farcical comedy scene, but they don’t bring up the issues these people face. It just devolves to “They’re sad” and that’s it. That’s literally it, Bella tells us that they’re sad and that’s all we have to go with. If you’re going to touch on this subject, could you maybe do something with it other than turn it into an obstacle that Bella has to overcome?
Now, to be obscenely kind (I know, you’re shocked) there are elements of this that don’t outright annoy me. The scenes at the veteran’s hospital are quite nice, it’s lip service but it’s good lip service. There’s a gay couple in this movie and it’s never a major deal. I do wish they’d let them touch in any way, even holding hands would’ve been good, but their implication was obscenely clear and I appreciate the attempt. The kittens were cute… kittens are a positive because we’re being kind. There were some good setup moments disguised as games early on, setups that would lead to a half decent payoff later on. Oh, no dogs were brutally shot on screen by a kidnapper running from the cops, that’s a huge positive because the last film in this franchise did that exact thing and I will never be OK with that.
A Dog’s Way Home is the bad discount Homeward Bound sequel you always knew that you never wanted. Its saccharine tone and bad acting makes it clear that this is a film that just doesn’t care. It’s using the natural love of adorable dogs to fool you into liking it when really, the only thing to like is how adorable the dog is. It’s not outright cruel like Dogs Purpose, but it also never reaches the level of good. It’s tolerable if your kids are desperate to go and see the cute dog movie, you can just do like someone in my cinema did and grab your phone to read a book by the light of the screen. It’s not a good movie, but at least it isn’t a sequel to A Dog’s Purpose… but like they would ever make that movie?
OH GODDAMN IT!