Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey (1993)

Homeward Bound - The Incredible Journey isn't the cat's meow, but it's not the dog's breakfast either.

Director Dwaynne Dunham has worked mostly in television and it shows with acting performances that are, to be kind, mostly doggone awful.


Laura Bumford (Kim Griest) is marrying Bob Seaver (Robert Hays). Guess what? Her three kids are less than enthused about the new man in mom's life. The two boys and one girl (Benj Thall, Veronica Lauren, Kevin Chevalia) each have their own pet, pooches Shadow and Chance (voiced by Don Ameche and Michael J. Fox) and a Siamese cat, Sassy (Sally Field).

The trio of furry friends is brought to a ranch owned by a friend of Laura while the family moves, for a short time, to San Francisco.

Chance, abandoned by a family in his younger days, finally has a home with the Bumfords. He fears he'll be back on the streets, or worse, stuck behind bars in an animal shelter. Shadow figures something must be wrong for his master, Peter (Thall), to leave him behind. The elderly pooch vows to return home to be with Peter. Chance and Sassy tag along. But there's a lot of wilderness between them and their home.


Homeward Bound is at its best when it explores the travels of the animals. An accompanying documentary, describing how Ben, Rattler and Tiki were trained would have been ideal. They match wits with a porcupine, skunk, bear, mountain lion and fast moving water. There are cracks aplenty about what domesticated animal is better, cats or dogs. And, unfortunately, what's a film for kids these days without references to poop and pee?

There are lessons to be learned too. Shadow stresses the importance of loyalty and patience to Chance. The younger pup learns to appreciate the wisdom of his elder. Sassy, uh, Sassy cracks a lot of jokes. Funny kitty.


Just prepare to wince when humans appear back in the frame. Hope (Lauren) cries. Peter is mad at Seaver for forcing the separation from his beloved Shadow. His position softens when he learns his stepfather actually cares about the animals and is trying to find them. Jamie (Chevalia) gets grossed out when Bumford and Seaver kiss. Snooty wedding guests shoo Chance away. There's not much in the way of neat tricks with this crew.

But in a movie world jammed full of three-dimensional and animated images, it's neat to see a film based outdoors which, given the health of most kids in North America, is where they'd be better off seeing a little more often.

A sequel, Homeward Bound: Lost in San Francisco, followed in 1996 without the participation of Ameche. He died in 1993 at age 85. The Cocoon star died the same year the first film was released. He was 85. Ameche was replaced by Ralph Waite (The Waltons).

RATING: 6/10

FUN FACTS: Director Fletcher Markle (The Man With A Cloak) helmed the first version of The Incredible Journey in 1963. The film was based on Shelia Burnford's book. Homeward Bound was Ameche's second last film. Corrina, Corrina was released in 1994. Ed Bernard, who appears briefly as a police desk sergeant, appeared in The White Shadow and Police Woman. Dunham's only other feature film credit was Little Giants with Rick Moranis and Ed O'Neill in 1994.

UPDATE (July 23, 2011): If you're near Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., Summer Shadows will screen Homeward Bound at Bellevue Park on Queen Street East on Aug. 10. Musical entertainment starts at 8 p.m. with movie to follow. Free admission. Free popcorn. View site at www.shadowsfilmfest.com

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