All Roads Lead Home

We open with Tragic Mother (Shannon Knopke) reading to Precocious Idiot Preteen (Vivien Cardone) from To Kill a Mockingbird a book which both appear to have memorised, yet only seem to understand the ‘don’t kill Mockingbirds’ bit, because THIS IS A FILM ABOUT ANIMALS. On farms.

In the next scene, there’s a brilliantly crap car crash in which Tragic Mother is vegetablized. PIP (by which she shall hereby be known) resents Vet Dad (Jason London), believing that he let the doctor pull the plug on Tragic Mother, a belief quite probably bolstered by his job, which involves putting down many, many animals. Just a hint love; it might actually have been the way she repeatedly refused to look at the goshdarn road that did it. So, there’s that whole thing, plus some stuff about a grumpy grandpa and an epidemic which is killing lots of healthy dogs.

The most glaring issue with this film is that PIP is a staggeringly irritating protagonist. An obnoxious, condescending, whiny little womb fart, she’s as easy to root for as a sea urchin with a swastika tattoo, yet we are expected to agree that letting her run grandpa’s farm, so she can teach everyone a jolly good lesson in being nice to animals, is a good idea. It’s blatant pandering to preteen’s who believe they know what’s what, and it’s borderline irresponsible.

Douglas Delaney’s script is also dire, dripping with maggoty fromage, weightless weighty speeches and unfunny jokes, but compared to the soundtrack it may as well be a David Mamet joint. The worst kind of Casio-tinged, Sunday afternoon MOR, it takes any potential resonance and vomits sugar into its frightened face.

This is not a terrible film. It’s a competently directed debut for Dennis Fallon, and the adult cast do a fine job. The brilliantly named Peter Coyote brings real gravitas to the grandfather, easily the most interesting character, and Jason London and Patton Oswalt do their best with thankless roles. Unfortunately Peter Boyle, in his last film role, suffers from Kirk-Douglas-at-the-Oscars-syndrome. He has a go, but just seems lost.

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