Saturday, October 9, 2010

Home Bound!

Beginning yesterday and continuing today, I've started a sort of nostalgia-type hobby or focus: Watching old movies I used to love as a child.

I was going to write my review for Born to be Wild (the 1995 film I watched last night) but it was quarter after one a.m. when it finished, so I didn't find that prudent. Today I'll be writing about what I watched this evening instead (with a belated and late review for the aforementioned film I watched yesterday later).

Homeward Bound was released in 1993 and was recorded by my mother off the TV at some point after it had become one of the movies played as a Disney Special (remember the old Disney blocks that showcased family movies?). Unfortunately she'd also recorded most of the commercials and the little segments before/after commercials that included a host with his golden retriever and we always had to fast-forward them. I have since have no idea where that old VHS has gone.
In any way, commercials or not, I loved the movie as a kid and always wanted to watch it. You know how, at a young age, sometimes when you watch a movie that has a lot of journey/adventure/emotional & mental efforts dealt with by the end, you somehow feel changed a little? This movie did it. This, Toy Story, and Lion King.

In the film, a family makes a temporary move to San Francisco. Their three pets, which include a Golden Retriever, Shadow, a Himalayan cat named Sassy, and an American Bulldog named Chance, are left at a ranch owned by a family friend for the duration.
Not realizing the nature of the family's absence, Shadow decides to leave the ranch and find his way home when he discovers that his loyal owner, Peter, and the family actually won't be visiting that weekend due to miscommunication. Thinking he's in trouble, and seeing the ranch owner leave for a cattle drive (not realizing a neighbor would be watching over them in her absence), Shadow leaves the ranch with Chance and Sassy to follow him.
The rest of the film details and showcases their adventurous journey throughout the wilderness and over the mountains to reach home again. Throughout this, they encounter bears, a mountain lion, a porcupine, and other wild animals. Sassy falls into a river and goes over a waterfall, and the dogs sadly go on without her (she rejoins them after being nursed back to health by an outdoorsman and hears the dogs barking by in the distance). At one point, they help save a lost girl.

Meanwhile the family is made aware of the pets' disappearance, and the stepfather, who was the reason for the family's temporary move, takes it upon himself to put flyers out everywhere in an attempt to find them and help gain the respect of his new wife's children (the animals really belong to and call the three kids their owners). The search party for the lost girl responds to the dogs barking, find the girl, and realize through memory of the flyers that the animals are the lost ones, and orchestrate their transfer to an animal shelter.

Unfortunately Chance, who has horrible memories of animal pounds, is terrified. Sassy manages to escape the attendants and help free the dogs (Chance, who'd been hit in the snout with a porcupine, has the quills taken out by a vet at the pound but has no idea what is actually happening other than his pain). They get away just as the happy family, who was notified by the shelter, arrive.

The pets finally make it home, which apparently coincides with the family having returned from San Francisco (as the animals instinctively return to the same house, which the family is already at). By this time it's Thanksgiving (coincidence, I had forgotten that Thanksgiving is in the movie) and the kids have adopted to calling their mother's "husband" 'dad'. After Shadow falls into a muddy pit near the railroad tracks and thinks he can't make it, they make it the rest of the way and a happy reunion unfolds, with Shadow just managing to make it with a limp.

For me, seeing the film again was a real eye-opener because as a child I never usually took in much details or plot devices or settings. I just liked the adventure and the journey. Now, watching it again, I have to say that there are some real interesting things and facts. I somehow thought as a kid that the family had permanently moved to San Francisco and left the pets at the ranch permanently, even though they were upset and sad that they disappeared. I'd also thought that the pets had tracked the family to San Francisco despite the house looking the same as the house at the beginning of the movie.

The family itself really brought up a lot of ridiculous similarities that I saw in real-life: the movie opens up with a wedding - in the movie, a tall blond with three children, two boys and a girl, marries this man who in turn whisks the wife and unwilling children in their family Jeep to another city for his work. The children don't take super quick to their new stepfather, and don't like having to move or leave their pets behind.

They do come back from that city, though. And of course it ends on Thanksgiving (by the time of their return). And I couldn't believe how adorable the cat was - the most cute blue eyes and dark face, and sweet-sounding meow. Maybe I sound weird describing a cat like that, but I don't know. I just find it heart-melting. I hated watching Sassy being tumbled about in the rapids and the waterfall, she looked so frantic and scared.

The vocal work was great as well - Michael J. Fox has an excellent voice and he did Chance perfectly. Sally Field provided great vocal work for Sassy as well (although she made the cat sound just slightly old, and kind of reminded me of a grandmother's voice). Unfortunately Don Ameche, who voiced Shadow, died the same year as the film's release, but he did a great job as well and made the dog sound world-wise like he is supposed to be.

It's a great kind of look-back to one's childhood memories. I remember a lot of scenes from that film and seeing them again refreshed a lot of how I saw the scenes, especially from a synesthetic point. That in turn reminded me of how I saw other things at that age as well, and other aspects. It revives a lot of thought I had at a younger age and a lot of how I experienced something, so it brings back a wealth of stuff for me.

Three years after the original movie was released, a sequel was made, Homeward Bound II: Lost in San Francisco, where the family has inevitably moved permanently to San Francisco. There we go, that similarity is cemented in. My mother bought me the actual movie on VHS, which I still have, but I didn't enjoy it nearly as much as the original film. Incidentally, the family goes on a trip to Canada while the animals escape from the airport due to Chance panicking and breaking free.

There's also a big sense of home in this movie - The character of Chance has had a rough former life, in which he was abandoned by his owners, picked up by a pound, and therefore doesn't have a sense of home or belonging within that family. He thinks they were abandoned at the ranch and is terrified of the animal shelter in result. By the end of the movie, however, he comes to feel loyalty to his owner, Jamie, and feels like he belongs and has a home when they eventually get there.

Very soon I'll be writing about the movie Born to be Wild, which I watched last night. That was a great movie in my childhood as well, and very fun to watch again.

For now, I am once again happy and pleased that Shadow, Chance and Sassy got home. It's a great old classic from 17 years ago.

Justin C.

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