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Homeward Bound will appeal to all ages

The Incredible Journey
Directed by Duwayne Dunham.
Screenplay by Caroline Thompson and
Linda Woolverton based upon"The Incredible
Journey" by Sheila Burnford.
Animal voices provided by Michael J. Fox,
Sally Field, and Don Ameche.
Loews Fresh Pond

By Joshua M. Andresen

Staff Reporter

Although the latest Disney release is clearly intended for a juvenile audience, it is very funny and sophisticated enough to appeal to a much broader base of viewers.

Homeward Bound relates the tale of three pets: Shadow, a golden retriever, Sassy, a Himalayan cat, and Chance, an American bulldog puppy. They are given to a neighbor while their family goes on vacation. When the owners do not return after a week, the animals begin to suspect that there is trouble and decide to escape from the neighbor and travel back home. Their journey through the wilderness is fraught with mishaps and triumphs and they emerge a closer knit "family" of pets, as it were.

This is a healthy dose of anthropomorphism in the movie, but it is not carried to extremes. Wherever possible, the writers attempted to keep the apparent actions of the animals true to the general character of these domesticated pets. The young dog is rambunctious, chasing after skunks and porcupines, and learning why these are not smart things to do. The cat is aloof, concerned always with cleanliness.

The script is very nicely written, and Michael J. Fox and Sally Field do a wonderful job with their parts. Chance (voice by Fox) has a rivalry throughout with Sassy (voice by Field). The interplay among these two characters is truly delightful. Sassy chides Chance for chewing up a shoe. "Want some?" asks Chance. "I'm not into leather," replies Sassy.

The script is not without the corny morals one often finds in Disney films, though. In the course of the movie, the children become accepting of their new foster father, as the movie (unlike the original film version of the book) deals with the family to which the pets belong. The animals even chip in their share of philosophy. Shadow (voice by Don Ameche) explains how to be man's best friend in one of the sillier scenes.

The best parts of Homeward Bound are the shots of the animals in action. The animal trainers started with eight dogs (four for each part), ten cats, and a host of cameramen, producing some amazing footage. Chance navigates the tops of several toppling garbage cans, Sassy files through the air (landing on all fours, of course), and Shadow faces a mountain lion. The best scene is one in which Sassy falls into the water and is carried downstream while she tries best to stay afloat. The close-up shots of the poor cat trying to swim are priceless. The only thing missing was the reminder that these are professionals and the stunts should not be attempted at home.

The music in the film (composed by Bruce Broughton) is also worth noting. In addition to the standard tear-jerking themes, an upbeat piece accompanied the escape from the pound (another very amusing sequence). This was a nice break from the long string of clichs that movie music usually employs.

Overall, this is a very entertaining movie. It is also a rather emotional film. It will be hard for anyone who owned a pet as a child to avoid tears from welling up during the final sequence as the pets are reunited with the children.