Giving voice to a dog's inner life is probably a noble pursuit, so it's inspiring to hear Michael J. Fox straining against his tether to do so in "Homeward Bound II: Lost in San Francisco"--even if the film exhibits a bit too much physical evidence of a dog's inner life to suit me.
With dialogue that would have been rejected by "America's Funniest Home Videos," a comic device that was worn out well before "Look Who's Talking Now" and a story that should have been put to sleep, "Homeward Bound II" is the kind of movie that gives "family film" a bad name. Children may giggle (especially at the pee and vomit scenes) but none of them will be old enough to attend without a tortured adult. So this is not a victimless movie.
Are films for kids the same as films for idiots? No, but all too often films for kids are the same as films for idiots. All its other faults aside, this is supposed to be an adventure. But San Francisco, where our intrepid trio gets lost--they are the sage golden retriever Shadow (voice of Ralph Waite), the attitudinal Himalayan cat Sassy (Sally Field) and the incorrigible adolescent bulldog Chance (Fox)--isn't exactly Beirut. Or even the Sierra Nevada, site of the last "Homeward Bound" (which was inspired by 1963's "The Incredible Journey"). It's a pretty tepid trek, made dangerous only by other dogs, many of whom--especially Riley (voice of Sinbad)--sound a bit too streetwise to deliver anything but racial overtones and anti-urban propaganda.
The human family, led by Bob and Laura Seaver (Robert Hays and Kim Greist), wouldn't inspire a walk around the cat box much less a trans-Francisco death march. As a matter of fact, Chance, Sassy and Shadow--who are dismissed as "pets" by the homeless dogs they meet--seem to be having quite a time away from home. Maybe for the next sequel, Disney could find them their own apartment, get them jobs and present it as a cross-species "Jules and Jim." With fleas.
* MPAA rating: G. Times guidelines: family fare, with a few very mild fight scenes.
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'Homeward Bound II: Lost in San Francisco'
Michael J. Fox: Voice of Chance
Sally Field: Voice of Sassy
Ralph Waite: Voice of Shadow
Robert Hays: Bob Seaver
Kim Greist: Laura Seaver
Veronica Lauren: Hope
Jamie: Kevin Chevalia
Peter: Benj Thall
A Walt Disney Pictures production, released by Buena Vista. Director David R. Ellis. Producer Barry Jossen. Screenplay Chris Hauty, Julie Hickson. Cinematographer Jack Conroy. Editors Peter E. Berger, Michael A. Stevenson. Costumes Stephanie Nolin. Music Bruce Broughton. Production design Michael Bolton. Running time: 1 hour, 29 minutes.
* In general release throughout Southern California.