WHERE THE HEART IS: Dog actor Shelby plays Bella, a loveable rescue dog who makes an incredible journey.

A Dog’s Way Home

  • Family adventure; Cert PG; 1hr 36mins
  • Starring: Bryce Dallas Howard, Ashley Judd, Alexandra Shipp, Jonah Hauer-King, Edward James Olmos, Wes Studi, Chris Bauer and Patrick Gallagher
  • Director: Charles Martin Smith

A QUICK internet search will net you hundreds of incredible pet journeys.
So it’s probably not too far-fetched for author W Bruce Cameron to claim that this story is based on fact. Though, unless he’s learned to speak dog, there isn’t really any way of verifying it.

Cameron also penned the novel A Dog’s Purpose, about a dog’s various reincarnations and its sequel, A Dog’s Journey, both of which have been made into films. (A Dog’s Journey is being released sometime this year.) This film is not part of that series.

Told from the point-of-view of a dog, it follows the adventures of Bella, a part pit bull mongrel who makes a solo journey from New Mexico, across the Rockies to Denver, Colorado.

The trip takes two years and will remind older viewers of An Incredible Journey – and just about every other animal story ever made into film.

Sadly, the lead character, Bella, despite being played by a very loveable dog, is spoiled for me by too much bright and cutesy voice over by Bryce Dallas Howard (Jurassic World), daughter of Ron Howard.

The lead human actor is relative unknown Jonah Hauer-King, who plays animal welfare activist Lucas. He finds Bella as a puppy under a condemned building and adopts her.

Hauer-King is somewhat overshadowed by much more famous supporting actors, Ashley Judd (Divergent) and Alexandra Shipp (X-men’s Storm).

However, dog actor, Shelby, steals the show from everyone anyway – as should be the case in a movie such as this.

In fact, the story of how Shelby went from rubbish dump stray to movie star is such a heartwarming one that Cameron has gone on to write a book about her as well.

I wonder who will play her in the movie.

Sadly, Cameron’s loading of this story with his over-simplified opinions about Denver’s dangerous dog law – describing it as “racism for dogs “and portraying dog rangers as corrupt bullies – can wear a bit thin.

Director Charles Martin Smith is an old hand with animal movies Dolphin Tale and Never Cry Wolf under his belt.

However, this film suffers from some crushingly obvious CGI failures, mostly in scenes with the wild cougar cub Bella adopts during her journey.

6/10

diane.mccarthy@thebeacon.co.nz