There’s a preordained dramatic curve to “Far From Home: The Adventures of Yellow Dog” that blunts one’s wholehearted enjoyment of the family drama. The yarn of a boy lost in the woods with his faithful canine is familiar territory and, while the craft is superior, the story is emotionally predictable. Commercial prospects are just OK, but in the current crowded marketplace, pic is destined for rapid playoff as other pet pix start to flood through the winter and spring release schedule.
Set in the rugged wilderness and shores of British Columbia, the story centers on the McCormick family. Dad (Bruce Davison) runs a hauling company and son Angus (Jesse Bradford) is an industrious, inquisitive lad. Into their world arrives a golden Labrador with innate intelligence, and Angus convinces his folks to let him keep it when its owner can’t be found. After a bit of hijinx and “Yellow’s” winning over Mom (Mimi Rogers), Angus and his father set out with the dog on a seagoing adventure.
Of course, they run into stormy waters and the craft capsizes. While the elder McCormick is rescued, his son disappears, possibly drowned but more likely — as befitting such a tale — washed ashore with the dog.
The breezy, perfunctory manner of the film proves a double-edged sword. It’s wise not to take long getting to the survival saga’s requisite moments: battling the elements, confronting wild beasts, succumbing to exhaustion. But by disposing of them with alacrity, the filmmakers pretty much eliminate any possibility of developing a novel twist in the narrative.
Writer/director Phillip Borsos’ work behind the camera is head-and-shoulders above the text. He’s a true craftsman, creating a handsome, breathing environment for situations and allowing his characters a dignity that keeps the material from sinking to the banal.
While Davison and Rogers are effective in limited roles, it is Bradford who carries the picture. As in “King of the Hill,” he effortlessly demonstrates an instinct, talent and charisma no other actor of his age can approximate.
“Far From Home” rarely strays from the tried and true, and while that’s comforting to a significant audience, viewers must be convinced they’re barking up a new tree. With this material, that’s difficult to do.