When a film spends nearly a year in postproduction undergoing major rewrites and recasting, as this film did, it's usually a sure sign of a disaster in the making. Not so in this case. A remake of Disney's own 1963 hit THE INCREDIBLE JOURNEY, based on the 1960 novel by Sheila Burnford, this agreeable talking-pets adventure pulled in generally good reviews and more than $37 million at the box office by effectively pitching cuteness to kids without sending parents into sugar shock. After marrying Laura (Kim Greist), college professor Bob (Robert Hays) packs up his new wife and her three kids--Hope (Veronica Lauren), Jamie (Kevin Chevalia), and Peter (Benj Thall)--to leave their Oregon home for a temporary teaching assignment in San Francisco. But he leaves behind the unwieldy family menagerie--aging retriever Shadow (voiced by Don Ameche), bulldog pound pup Chance (Michael J. Fox), and prissy kitty Sassy (Sally Field)--to be cared for by family friend Kate (Jean Smart). When Kate then leaves the pets in the care of a friend of hers for a few days, old Shadow gets anxious. Not comprehending that the family's departure is temporary, he begins worrying that his "adopted" boy Peter is in trouble. He decides to go to Peter's "rescue", bounding out of Kate's yard closely followed by Chance and Sassy. Between them and home is solid Northwestern wilderness, including snakes, lions and bears. Sassy falls into a river and is swept over a waterfall, but she is rescued by a friendly hermit who nurses her back to health in time to rejoin her companions. When the three save a little girl lost in the woods, they are captured by forest rangers who have been keeping an eye out for them at Bob's request. Pound veteran Chance panics, however, and leads a daring escape just as Bob and family are driving up to retrieve them. After facing a few other assorted hazards, obstacles and obstructions, the three make their way home and are reunited with their returned family on Thanksgiving Day. As reported in Entertainment Weekly magazine, HOMEWARD BOUND was "completed" in Spring '92 with Donald Sutherland, Jon Cryer, and Annie Potts (ironically, Smart's former co-star in TV's "Designing Women") voicing the animals. But the film went back to the drawing boards, with various writers being brought in to punch up the gags and pump up the emotions before the voices were re-cast and re-recorded. The result is an entertaining family film that is unabashedly sentimental as well as visually imaginative. Debuting feature director Duwayne Dunham is a protege of director David Lynch. He edited Lynch's BLUE VELVET and WILD AT HEART and directed three episodes of his TV series "Twin Peaks" (he also won an Emmy for editing the pilot). This is worth mentioning because it's possible that only someone who is familiar with Lynch's deadpan surrealist sensibility could approach a project in which household pets are more articulate than the humans that own them not only with a straight face but with something resembling conviction. The three animals' points of view are presented in straightforward fashion without their becoming either overly cute or annoyingly anthropomorphic. In other words, they are two dogs and a cat, but they're not animals. Shadow has the kind of dumb, unwavering loyalty honored through the ages in fictional forebears from White Fang to Rin Tin Tin. Chance just enjoys being a dog in a house with plenty of human clothing to mutilate, frisbees to chase and ample dropped food to filch. Sassy is prim and proper, though not above using her feline wiles to separate dinner guests from their hors d'oeuvres. The voices are well-cast, with the late Don Ameche milking every possible drop of emotion from the noble Shadow. Dunham's major contribution is in seamlessly maintaining the animals' visual point of view throughout with just the right mix of poignancy and humor, greatly aided by ace Oscar-winning IMAX cinematographer Reed Smoot (GRAND CANYON: THE HIDDEN SECRETS), who also captures the wilderness with a sense of wonder. Their efforts make HOMEWARD BOUND brighter and breezier than many movies starring humans nowadays.