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'Far From Home: Adventures of Yellow Dog'

By William F. Powers
Washington Post Staff Writer
January 14, 1995


Jesse Bradford;
Bruce Davison
Parental guidance suggested

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Here is the Great Fantasy of the American Boy Lying Awake in Bed: A terrible accident leaves you stranded in a harsh wilderness. You are alone, except for your stouthearted dog. You must build a fort for shelter, and a raft for crossing water ... fend off wolves ... eat small animals and insects. If you don't survive, at least you'll go down fighting.

Now the fantasy has a fine movie version called "Far From Home: The Adventures of Yellow Dog."

The title suggests that the dog, which is actually named Yellow Dog (Yellow for short), is the hero. But this is a pure boy-and-his-dog movie, in which neither 14-year-old Angus McCormick (Jesse Bradford) nor his dog (played by a Labrador named Dakotah) is the true protagonist. Rather, the hero is their friendship as they struggle together to stay alive.

As the tale begins, Angus is becoming a man. Dad (Bruce Davison) is teaching him how to drive a truck and build a boat and make a good campfire. His voice has changed, and there's a green-eyed girl hanging around with something on her mind.

Angus and Yellow join Dad on a business journey in Dad's boat. A storm blows up and the boat capsizes. Angus and Yellow wind up on an uninhabited shore (the film was shot in gorgeous British Columbia), where they must outwit the elements, the wolves, hunger and other obstacles.

The bonding is intense, and, thanks to sturdy performances by both boy and dog, believable. Yellow—who is also played by several stand-ins—has mastered the full range of canine facial expressions and is every bit as wise as he looks. At one point, he awakens Angus just in time to catch a rodent that has wandered into their trap, and which happily turns out to be edible.

A warning: This dog is so lovable, so admirable, so godlike, that parents of kids who are begging for a puppy will be hard-pressed to defend their position.

The emotion-orchestrating score is a bit overdone; this story needs no violins to engage the feelings. When Angus and Yellow are separated, for instance, it's simply handkerchief time. Parents who once watched "Old Yeller" and "Sounder" through a salty glaze will find this film reminiscent of those classics of dog cinema.

"Far From Home" is about 80 minutes long, which does not feel long enough. But one imagines there are more Yellow Dog adventures to come.

© Copyright 1999 The Washington Post Company

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