A Dog’s Way Home is a 2019 American family adventure film directed by Charles Martin Smith from a screenplay by W. Bruce Cameron and Cathryn Michon, based on the 2017 book of the same name by Cameron. The film stars Bryce Dallas Howard, Ashley Judd, Edward James Olmos, Alexandra Shipp, Wes Studi, Chris Bauer, Barry Watson, and Jonah Hauer-King, and follows a dog named Bella (voiced by Howard) who travels more than 400 miles to find her owner.
Lucas and his friend & co-worker Olivia find a puppy living along with many kittens and a mother cat at a construction site in Denver, Colorado. Her mother had been captured by animal control and mother cat was raising the pup. Lucas & the dog, who he names Bella, are taken with each other so he takes her home to live with his veteran mother Terri Ray. Over the years, Lucas plays with and takes care of Bella. Lucas also continues to feed the cats at the old house, which puts him in the crosshairs of Günter Beckenbauer, the man who intends to demolish the house. He even calls the city about the cats who live there, which delays the demolition. Seeking vengeance, Günter arranges for Bella to be labeled a pitbull, because Denver has outlawed pitbulls as a dangerous breed. That evening, an overzealous animal control officer named Chuck comes by to warn Lucas that if he finds Bella on the street, he will impound her.
Later Bella chases after a squirrel Lucas catches up to her and is about to take her home, but Chuck confiscates Bella and takes her into the local animal shelter. Lucas picks Bella up, pays a fine, and is allowed to take her home, but he is warned that if Bella is captured again, she will be euthanized. To avoid this, Lucas sends Bella to live with Olivia’s aunt and uncle in Farmington, New Mexico, until he and his mother can find another home outside of Denver’s urban limits. However, Bella misses Lucas and escapes from the house and begins her 400 mile journey back home. During Bella’s journey, she befriends a cougar cub, whom she names “Big Kitten.” Bella and Big Kitten encounter many ordeals together, including being hunted by a pack of coyotes, but a group of men help Bella and scare the coyotes away. The three men give Bella food at their campsite and upon learning who her owner is, try to call Lucas, only to be scared away by the sudden arrival of Big Kitten. During the winter, Bella helps rescue a man buried in an avalanche.
A gay couple who dug the man out take both Bella and the man’s dog to their home but she leaves them after a few weeks. Eventually, she reaches a small town, where she is temporarily taken in by a homeless vet named Axel until he soon dies. Back in the wilderness, Bella is attacked by coyotes again, but Big Kitten, now fully grown, returns and intervenes, successfully fighting off the coyotes. At each place Bella goes, she learns that each of her new friends has its own home, and how she must keep moving to get back to her family. Bella finally makes it back to Denver, and she bids Big Kitten farewell before they part ways. She gets hit by a car in heavy traffic and injures one of her front legs but manages to reach home – only to find that Lucas and his mom no longer live there. She then makes her way to the city’s VA hospital, followed by Chuck who was called by the new owner of the house, where she joyfully reunites with Lucas, Terri, and Olivia.
Lucas prepares to take Bella to the vet to treat an injury Bella received due to being struck by a car, but when Lucas, Terri, and Lucas’s friends bring Bella outside, Chuck arrives with several police officers, including police captain Mica. Captain Mica, after a discussion with all the vets, allows Lucas to keep Bella as he has no jurisdiction, being that the hospital is federal property. Chuck threatens to pull Lucas over if he sees Bella leave the premises, but Captain Mica fires Chuck for his over-zealousness and orders the police officers not to pull anybody over just for a dog. Lucas and Terri are happy to see Bella again and finally manage to move into a house in Golden, where they allow pitbulls. At night, she cozies up on the bed with Lucas & his wife Olivia and is content that she is now back home where she belongs.
Heart tugging, funny and endearing, this is a family movie. And dare I say, I cried a bit when Bella is finally reunited with Lucas after 2.5 years. I miss my dog. 8 outta 10!