Friday, December 07, 2012


It’s time, finally, to unceremoniously pop the cap on this place post-Thanksgiving style and start getting back into the swing of things. There are a couple of fresh pieces coming before the holiday, as well as a new quiz, the year-end round-up and, of course, the final wrap-up on the American Horror Story Season One project initiated way back in August in partnership with with the lovely and talented Simon Abrams. But let’s start with a baby step or two, shall we? 

Far from Home: The Adventures of Yellow Dog (1995) isn't much more than just a serviceable family movie about a boy (Jesse Bradford) lost in the wilderness of British Columbia with his whip-smart golden retriever. Directed by the late Philip Borsos, whose last film this was (Borsos had previously made The Grey Fox starring Richard Farnsworth and The Mean Season), the movie looks suitably gorgeous-- the location scenery is well served by cinematographer James Gardner-- and it’s a well-cast picture, with good work from Bruce Davison and Mimi Rogers as the boy's parents, Tom Bower as the lead search-and-rescue officer, and sixth-billed Dakotah, a masterful canine actor, as the titular Yellow Dog. (Yep, that's his name-- Yellow Dog.) But it's also very predictable and a bit too cozy and tame—Old Yeller this ain't. 

It does have one odd scene in which the mother reads a bedtime story to Bradford's younger brother who, concerned about whether his older sibling is still alive, asks Mom about where we go when we die. Of course I couldn't help thinking, given that Mom  scorched the screen just two years earlier as a damaged religious zealot who turns against God, even in the face of the actual Armageddon, when her Abraham-like sacrifice is rejected, and that her explanation would probably sound less than comforting to anyone other than a movie-cute tyke ("It's kind of like sleeping, only you never wake up... forever," she intones), maybe the kid should be asking her what's for dinner instead.

The movie is overscored like mad by composer John Scott-- those who are complaining about John Williams and his work on Spielberg’s Lincoln oughta give this one a listen. And it's also undernourished-- the wilderness dilemma never feels all that urgent, and it takes up relatively little of the movie scant 80-minute running time. But when the two protagonists are separated for weeks after a rescue team grabs the boy and accidentally causes Yellow Dog to plunge hundreds of feet into a raging river, and then reunited at the end when YD improbably makes his way back home to the farm, none of those flaws registered. You can't beat a boy and his dog reunion scene, especially with the weary, battered, faithful animal limping across a great expanse of lush field toward the loving arms of his fresh-scrubbed master. I'm probably just tired after a long week, but the damn thing made me sob like I was Claire Danes.

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