Steve Goble

Choose life. (Deuteronomy 30:19)


They're usually made to 'update' a classic movie for a modern audience.

Having seen the original 1963 adaptation of this book at school as a kid (I think my dad came that evening too), this afternoon I sat down to see what the 1993 remake had made of it.

As I watched two dogs and a cat trekking across so much natural landscape, I had to wonder just what had changed so much about these timeless elements since the 1960s...

I guess the most obvious difference is in the filmmakers' apparent perception of their audience. In this one the animals can talk. It's a fairly commonplace convention, and was so in the 1960s too, but all the same, I couldn't help feeling that this somehow made things all a bit too dumbed-down and easy.

Or did it? Actually this had the unintended effect of making the start of the film quite hard to get into. Apart from making the three wisecracking animals appear more similar to each other, in my post-modernist way it took me a while to shake the urge to deconstruct all the dubbing. Much of the dialogue just didn't seem to gel together with the pictures. I kept trying to figure-out which had been recorded first.

Not to mention wondering whether the characters were actually speaking to each other out loud, or communicating via telepathy? The humans can't understand them, so I guess it's the latter, yet several scenes feature their speech reverberating with their changing surroundings. Further muddying the suspension of disbelief, none of the other animals they meet can talk, which is fortunate given that our stars eat a few of them. (shades of Madagascar) A few of the caged pets at the pound yell things out, but I think they're the only exceptions.

Am I overthinking this? Well, any thought on these matters is more than the original 1963 film had had to overcome.

Anyway, for all that, I'm happy to report that, once I had got into this, it managed to work that same Disney charm on me as I recall from my childhood. The story of two dogs and a cat traversing 200 miles to get home won me over in much the same way as before. When they finally were reunited with their human family at the end, I had the intended tear on my cheek. I think Director Duwayne Dunham knew throughout that there is not much that is sadder than a dog's face.

Particular praise must go to Rattler as Chance. With all respect, he has a real blundering to his charging around, which no doubt was material that Michael J Fox could work with in his voicing.

The human scenes break things up without really intruding, and thanks to Airplane!, Robert Hays will always be incapable of doing any wrong in any film ever.

That scene when the cat was drowning though. For a brief moment, I suddenly thought I was watching Sabrina The Teenage Witch.

You know why.

Review of the sequel Homeward Bound II: Lost In San Francisco here.


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