The grade-schooler audience will love Phillip Borsos’ “Far from Home: The Adventures of the Yellow Dog.” This beautifully photographed wilderness-survival picture ultimately suffers from a disappointingly predictable story arc and a distinct lack of breathless excitement, but it’s still worth a look.
No fair spilling the kibble here, but you’re barking up the wrong tree if you’re expecting “Yellow Dog” to fall into the classic kennel-cinema turf of “Old Yeller” or “The Proud Rebel” (1957-58) or even either version of “The Incredible Journey” (1963/‘93). To its credit, the new arrival moves at a bracingly fast clip - only 80 minutes in the running - and boasts one of the screen’s more appealing pooches, a golden Labrador named Dakotah.
Director Borsos’ screenplay is the soul of simplicity: Kid (a well-cast Jesse Bradford) adopts dog; kid takes dog on a sea voyage with dad (Bruce Davison); kid and dog are thrown overboard; kid and dog spend rest of picture trying to get back home.
Denied the luxury of a leisurely running time, Borsos wisely avoids dwelling on the survival skills that carry the boy-and-dog team through. He also steers clear of cheap sentimentality, and as a consequence many viewers will find themselves moved genuinely to tears at not only the child’s predicament but also that of his worried family.
A failure to generate much tension, however, leaves the overall product wanting. A promised wolf attack is dismissed with much growling and snarling and a chase. An encounter with a hungry lynx has so little payoff that the effect is more depressing than exhilarating.
Suspense builds promisingly toward the end, though even the most uninvolved viewer can probably guess the double-whammy outcome. But in the efficiency of its telling, the conviction of its acting, and the grandeur of its photography and music (by James Gardner and John Scott, respectively), “Yellow Dog” has sufficient saving graces.
MEMO: This is a sidebar that appeared with the story: “Far from Home: The Adventures of the Yellow Dog” is playing at Lincoln Heights, North Division and Coeur d’Alene cinemas. Directed by Phillip Barsos and starring Mimi Rogers, Jesse Bradford, Bruce Davidson and Dakotah, the dog. Rated PG
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