Fairly enjoyable for what it is but what it is, is extremely derivative "Far From Home," subtitled "The Adventures of Yellow Dog," is strictly by-the-numbers family fare. (It's also not really about the dog!)
Kids may enjoy it, but there isn't anything to distinguish "Far From Home" from dozens of other kids-surviving-in-the-wilderness pictures . . . including its generic title.
There is, however, some gorgeous cinematography of lush British Columbia locations (the film was shot primarily in remote southern provincial parks), which may be enough to keep parents awake.
The story has a well-trained but apparently homeless pooch wandering into the farmland of former city folks Katherine and John McCormick (Mimi Rogers, Bruce Davison) and their two young sons, Angus (Jesse Bradford) and Silas (Joel Palmer).
The older son, Angus, is an ambitious youth, using his paper-route money to build a rowboat, helping out with the usual country chores and shyly backing away when a schoolgirl friend tries to give him a kiss. Mom and Dad are loving, understanding parents but when the dog shows up, they are initially reluctant to take it in. Gradually, "Yellow," as he is called, singles out Angus as his favorite, and eventually wins over Mom with his obedience skills. So, he's allowed to stay.
The plot kicks into gear as Dad takes Angus and Yellow out on his boat for a several-day journey and they are hit by an unexpectedly treacherous storm. The boat capsizes and Angus and the dog are thrown out. Dad is quickly found, but search-and-rescue teams can't find Angus.
Meanwhile, Angus and Yellow team up to battle nature (winds, rains, steep cliffs and snowy mountaintops) and wild beasts (a wolf and a lynx turn in benign cameos). They also practice their survival skills, which includes dining on grubs and beetles. Thankfully, however, they do not break into "Hakuna Matata."
Even without "The Lion King" reference, however, "Far From Home" obviously rips off such other familiar fare as "The Black Stallion" (canine style), "The Incredible Journey" and "Lassie," among others.
Oh, well. If you're going to steal material, steal from the best.
That Angus and Yellow will nearly be confounded by the elements, and that they will eventually be rescued and return home for a happy ending is a given, of course. And there's nothing wrong with that.
But considering how superficial and simple-minded it all seems, and despite the skill used in putting it together, one can't help but feel that writer-director Phillip Borsos ("The Grey Fox," "One Magic Christmas") is slumming.
He deserves better . . . and so do we.
"Far From Home" is rated PG for animal violence and some brief, mild vulgar language.
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