"Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey" (El Capitan), which stars two dogs and a cat, sounds like a throwback to old Disney, and in fact Uncle Walt made it the first time around 30 years ago. However, this variation on Sheila Burnford's 1960 novel improves vastly on the original, in which we watched three pets trek interminably through the rugged Canadian High Country in search of their masters accompanied only by cowboy star Rex Allen's off-screen narration. The animals were lovable, of course, but their incredible journey became incredibly dull.
Writers Caroline Thompson and Linda Woolverton have remedied this problem in two ways, by bringing their family into the story and by providing voices for the pets. Anthropomorphism on the screen is a painstaking art and craft, and "Homeward Bound" is a fine, heart-tugging example. Thompson and Woolverton have provided delightful personalities for Shadow, a wise and mature golden retriever; Chance, a frisky American bulldog puppy, and Sassy, a fastidious, weight-conscious Himalayan cat. Their voices are supplied, respectively, by none other than Don Ameche, Michael J. Fox and Sally Field.
The film opens in the High Sierra--annoyingly, the film is hazy on geography and other details. Bob (Robert Hays) and Laura (Kim Greist) have just married, bringing together pets and children from previous marriages. Since Bob, a professor of some sort, has a temporary gig in San Francisco, the family closes up its nice old home in the Sierra and leaves the pets with a friend (Jean Smart). After some credible glitches, the homesick Shadow, Chance and Sassy escape and commence their adventure-filled odyssey.