Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey (1993)

Three pets escape from a California ranch to find their owners in San Francisco.

After feeling suitably disturbed from watching Sleepers, I needed to balance the books. Scrolling endlessly through Netflix, attempting to see what I could muster up the strength to watch, I stumbled across Homeward Bound. A movie not fully ingrained my childhood mind compared to the likes of Home Alone, Ace Ventura and Jungle Book, but nonetheless I had fond memories of this as a child. Having not seen this since I was 7 (or thereabouts), and had occasionally dipped in and out of this film when on during the Christmas period over the years, I wondered if the film could stir up the same emotions in my miserable older self, as it did over 15 years ago.

For those who don’t know, Homeward Bound was a remake of 1960’s hit The Incredible Journey, which tells the story of a cat called Sassy and two dogs, Chance and Shadow, as they try and find their way home to their adoring child owners after they had to move away briefly. The animals don’t move their mouths, and there is no CGI, all we hear is narration from Chance much like The Wonder Years, and the conversations that they have but these are carried out as voice-overs. In among this, the pets don’t understand what the humans are saying and the humans don’t understand what the pets are saying; herein lies the problem as the animals don’t quite get what’s going on, panic, and go off on an adventure to fix a problem that doesn’t need fixing. But, it makes for a good story!

Story-line aside, the film is astounding in its use of actual animals. In the 1960’s film, I highly doubt the laws protecting animals from being harmed in films were as significant as they are now. You can tell this is the case, simply by the angry noises the animals make, and the scenarios they are put in. Yet still in this film, made in 1993, you have Dogs vs Bears, Dogs vs Cougars and a Cat being thrown down some rapids among many other moments of perilous danger. As a young child, this would be traumatising to watch, and as a grown adult, it was still pretty incredible to see. Even with the research you can do now to find out that they used 4 Golden Retrievers, 4 American Bulldogs and 8 Himalayan cats to do the roles (childhood slightly ruined), and that they would go wherever the food was located, it is still absolutely baffling how they got them to do some of the stunts they did.

It is well shot, with a funny script and a good story to tell, but it is the suspense created in the film that helps it succeed. Cute animals can only take you so far, but as they go after their idealistic, wholesome American family, we are taken on a rollercoaster of borderline animal mistreatment, and a treacherous journey that climbs to an emotional ending even the sternest of grown ups would have a hard time not being effected by. This is likable, family fun for all ages, and I feel better for having watched it.

Well worth revisiting, and it’s just been added to Netflix this month!

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