Story

A Dog’s Way Home is narrated by Bella, (voice of Bryce Dallas Howard), a dog who starts life beneath a derelict building in Denver with her mother and many cats. One day a scary dog controller, Chuck (John Cassini), captures Bella’s mother and takes her away. One of the mother cats adopts Bella and looks after her until a young man called Lucas (Jonah Hauer-King) finds her.

Lucas takes Bella home to live with him and his mother Terri (Ashley Judd). An army veteran, Terri suffers from PSTD and Bella is a great help to her. Lucas, however, is Bella’s ‘person’ and he teaches her all sorts of tricks. One of these is ‘go home’, which is where she finds her own way home.

Unfortunately for Bella, Chuck is determined to catch her and lock her up. He has decided she’s a dangerous pit bull terrier and should be destroyed. He threatens to have her euthanased if he catches her on the streets. Lucas decides to send Bella to another state to escape Chuck, and Lucas intends to join her there. But Bella is so upset to be parted from Lucas that she decides to ‘go home’ before Lucas arrives.

The rest of the story is about Bella’s dangerous trip across New Mexico back to Denver. The journey covers over 600 kilometres and takes more than two years. Along the way, Bella is attacked by wolves, befriends an orphaned cougar, is kept chained up by a homeless man and is hit by a car. Bella shows great courage, which is rewarded in the end.

Themes

Animals in peril; animals in the wild; separation from a parent

Violence

A Dog’s Way Home has some violence. For example:

  • The owner of the condemned buildings confronts Lucas and his girlfriend Olivia and yells at them to keep off his property.
  • The owner confronts Terri and tells her not to ‘go to war with him’ over the demolition of the buildings.
  • Terri grabs Chuck by the arm and tells him in strong words that he must allow Lucas to take Bella to the car.
  • Hunters shoot a cougar dead.
  • Wolves surround Bella and try to attack her, but ‘big kitten’ scares them away.
  • Bella goes into a supermarket because she smells a cooked chicken. An employee chases her away, and Bella knocks over several people and shelves in the mayhem.
  • Four wolves chase Bella and attack her. It looks like Bella won’t survive but ‘big kitten’, who is now an adult cougar, arrives in time and frightens the wolves away. This is quite an intense scene.
  • Bella tries to cross a busy highway and is hit by a car.

Sexual references

A Dog’s Way Home has some sexual references. For example:

  • Olivia says jokingly that Lucas ‘isn’t hot’.
  • Olivia and Lucas are affectionate towards each other.
  • Two male skiers are affectionate towards each other.

Alcohol, drugs and other substances

A Dog’s Way Home shows some use of substances. For example, people drink wine and beer.

Nudity and sexual activity

A Dog’s Way Home has some nudity and sexual activity. For example, Lucas and Olivia are shown in bed together. There’s a wedding photo by the bed, so they’re obviously now married.

Product placement

None

Coarse language

There is some very mild coarse language and name-calling in this movie.

Ideas to discuss with your children

A Dog’s Way Home is a wonderful adventure story, with some very sad and very happy moments. The key relationships between Bella and the mother cat, Bella and Lucas, and Bella and ‘big kitten’ are presented in a very moving way.

This movie does have a happy ending, but it also has several intense scenes, including scenes that show a dead man and a dead animal. Therefore the movie isn’t recommended for very young children, and we also recommend parental guidance for children aged 5-10 years.

The main messages from this movie are that the bonds between dogs and their humans are very strong and that dogs are very good therapy for people with emotional and physical needs.

Values in this movie that you could reinforce with your children include courage, perseverance, heroism, and care and concern for others.