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Today’s Netflix pick is a true family film complete with lovable animals and lots of outdoor adventure, perfect for a family night in front of the TV. From Disney no less, it is directed by Duwayne Dunham and features the voice talents of Michael J. Fox as troublesome Bulldog named Chance, Don Ameche as an older, very loyal Golden Retriever named Shadow, and Sally Field as Sassy, a prissy Himalayan house cat. Avoiding silly attempts to make them look like they’re actually talking with CGI lips or gobs of peanut butter, the animals seem to communicate with each other by well, animal-ese and it’s the way to do it. Heartwarming and funny, it’s charming children’s movie fun that doesn’t take too long for adults get pulled into as well.
THE STORY: Chance is also the narrator and explains that his reckless behavior has landed him in and out of homes for a while, and as such, he’s not so keen to being part of anything. He’d rather chew up a shirt than get to know the person wearing it. He’s just been adopted by Bob Seaver (Robert Hays) and Laura Burnford (Kim Greist), newlyweds with three kids on her side, each of them owners of the animals. The problem is that the family has to relocate to San Fransisco for a temporary job but there’s no room for two dogs and a cat so they drop them off to stay at a friend’s ranch while they are away. Problem is, the animals don’t understand what is happening.
A mix up with a note leaves the gang unattended and so they naturally believe they’ve been abandoned by the family friend and their owners are in trouble. Time to hit the road and rescue them, taking them into the mountainous wilderness of the Sierra Nevadas with lots of encounters with wildlife and minor dangers.
WHY YOU NEED TO WATCH: Honestly, they just don’t make movies like this anymore. So many children’s films have become cynical, dark and hyper violent with screeching characters and big bold colors. The recent The Secret Life of Pets is a perfect example of this, a vapid film with no charm or respect for the children watching. With Homeward Bound: An Incredible Journey however, there is a real quality to the action, one less about pranks and violence and more about courage, companionship, and loyalty.
Everything was shot on location and you get a sense of this big outdoorsy feel to it and the animals, unencumbered by CGI, look and feel natural, doing what dogs and a cat do. Of course they are highly-trained but there is a playfulness about them that seems so authentic. Your kids are gonna love them. And so will you. There are a few scary moments maybe with a bear and cougar but nothing that’s not played away easily by Fox’s bantering. It’s all in good fun.
Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey is streaming now on Netflix. Watch it tonight.