Time: the indefinite continued progress of existence and events in the past, present, and future regarded as a whole. The big downer for movie-goers this week was the loss of famed horror director and stuntman David R. Ellis. He captured the nightmares of audiences everywhere with flicks like FINAL DESTINATION 2 & 4, SNAKES ON A PLANE, and ASYLUM. He also directed more grandma-friendly thrillers like CELLULAR and SHARK NIGHT 3-D, and he had a whole bunch of other projects "in the pipeline" as they say. While it's hard to ignore the irony of Ellis dying of what appears to be unnatural causes, I think it's best to simply look back on his achievements in film with respect and an open mind. Which is why I recently decided to re-watch David R. Ellis's 1996 directorial debut (and perhaps his scariest film of all), HOMEWARD BOUND II: LOST IN SAN FRANSISCO. Of course, we can't do these articles without a girl to focus on, so let's go with the girl who owned Sassy the cat, Veronica Lauren.
Yeah, I really thought about this one before jumping to it (those are sarcastic italics). There really isn't a whole lot of info to dig up on this gal. She was born in California with the full name "Veronica Lauren Grubb", which she had shortened to "Veronica Lauren" for her stage name (I can't imagine why). She was very young when she got her first acting gig, on the show "L.A. Law". In 1991, she played Sarah Collins in the redux of the series "Dark Shadows". Throughout her childhood, Veronica landed several other roles in movies and TV-miniseries, but none that could ever hold a candle to her Oscar-worthy performance as Hope Burnford in HOMEWARD BOUND: THE INCREDIBLE JOURNEY (1993).
That last sentence actually isn't entirely sarcastic. For such a young actress, Veronica sure made you feel the aching melencholia for a little girl who lost her kitty in HOMEWARD BOUND (a remake of the 1963 film THE INCREDIBLE JOURNEY, based on the best-selling novel by Sheila Burnford). But David R. Ellis had nothing to do with that movie; he only directed its San Fransisco-based sequel. So why mention it at all? Well, I suppose to get some helpful backstory, and trust me, there isn't much...
I'm having Pippi Longstocking flashbacks already.
The only things you need to know about HOMEWARD BOUND to understand the sequel, are the characters. First, we'll start with the pets, two dogs and a cat. First, there's everyone's favorite, Chance (an American Bulldog playfully voiced by Michael J. Fox, who also narrates the film). Secondly, there's the old fart, Shadow (a Golden Retriever voiced by legendary actor Don Ameche). Finally, we have Miss Prissy Pants herself, Sassy (a Himalayan cat voiced by Sally Field). They are owned by three children: Jamie Burnford (Kevin Chevalia), Peter Burnford (Benj Thall) and their sister Hope (Veronica Lauren). The kids all seem compassionate towards their constantly eating and pooping pets, just as their parents love their constantly crying and pooping children. Their mom, Laura Burnford (played by Kim Greist), winds up getting married to Bob Seaver (played by AIRPLANES's Robert Hayes). I feel sorta bad for Bob. Not only does he take his wife's last name, but now he's forced to deal with three obnoxious pets and their overemotionally attached owners. And something tells me these youngsters aren't the sharpest tools in the shed...
Okay, so does everyone got that down? Good, now we can move on... HOMEWARD BOUND II: LOST IN SAN FRANSISCO is another example of Disney banking off of an original film's success. Obviously, there was no best-selling novel called Lost in San Fransisco, so this movie's already scrapped for any decent source material. So what do they do for a premise? They take the HANGOVER 2 route, and basically put the characters in the same situation as the first movie, only changing the location. Instead of following these three housepets as they find their way home through a beautiful forest, struggling with the forces of nature, this time we follow them through the trashy alley ways of San Fransisco, struggling with two moronic dogcatchers.
Perhaps I should back up and explain how they got into this mess. The film opens with the Burnsford house, and everyone is together, happy as ever. That is everyone except for Chance, who isn't getting the attention he once had from that ungrateful little bastard Jamie. Now, just like in the first film, Bob and his pain-in-the-ass family are going on vacation, only this time, they decide to take the animals along with them. Then in a typical moment of "movie airport luck", Chance, Shadow and Sassy don't make it to the plane, and find themselves lost.... in San Fransisco!
The Burnfords find out about this once they've already reached their destination (Canada, by the way), and the kids immediately get broken-up, hostile and angry, and demand they fly right back to California to look for their pets. Bob reasonably states there's no point in letting this event ruin yet another vacation, but the kids insist. Vacation ruined. Now I see why Robert Hayes had a drinking problem...
Meanwhile, Shadow (who's voiced by Ralph Waite this time around) has a fullproof plan to sniff the gang's way back home, Sassy finds this absurd, and Chance could care less because his owner's kind of a c*nt anyway. The only landmark they have to go by is the Golden Gate Bridge, so that's what they hope to find. As they come across the local animals of San Francisco, they quickly start running into trouble with a Boxer named Ashcan and his Bulldog buddy Pete. They refuse to let the gang pass, and then threaten to eat Sassy, which leads to the first choreographed fight sequence of the film, consisting mostly of inanimate objects. Strangely enough, I can see how David R. Ellis got some of his inspiration for shooting his FINAL DESTINATION films from watching these sequences. They're like long, cinematic domino effects, only they don't end with someone's pancreas flying at the screen.
Anyway, the trio get saved by a group of mutts called "Riley's gang", which features a cast of dogs with awkwardly stereotypical voiceovers. Chance quickly fled the seen when they appeared, so Riley sends Delilah (a Kuvasz voiced by the still very bangable Carla Gugino) off to find him. Once the two are formally introduced, sparks fly, and we witness an act of canine chemistry. I never knew dogs went on dates. From what I've gathered, they meet, sniff each others asses and start gettin' busy behind some tree, all in a matter of minutes. Who knew?
Meanwhile, our subject, Hope Burnford is back at the San Francisco Police Department with her family, patiently awaiting news on the whereabouts of their furry friends (because the SFPD apparently has nothing better to do than look for some goddamn lost pets). Ace Ventura would've had things under control by now. Getting back on track, Chance is having problems of his own, after getting captured by some fallacious dog-haters in a "blood-red van", and it's up to Sassy, Shadow and Riley's gang of "woof"-less criminals to save him. After scaring the dogcatchers away from their own vehicle, "Riley's gang" sets the captured pups free, and then they somehow manage to put the van in reverse and send it off into the ocean for good. Yup, none of this makes any sense at all, but what do you expect? It's a f*ckin' talking animal movie.
After all he's been through, Chance gets dumped by Delilah because she finds their lifestyles incompatible. What a bitch! (Get it?). Riley ultimately decides if they love the humans that much, he'll take Shadow, Sassy and Chance to the "golden bridge". They make it there, have one more climactic battle with Pete and Ashcan (what a horribly cruel name for a pet... ASH-CAN). After crossing the bridge, the gang runs in front of an 18-wheeler and nearly causes a bloody pile-up (a scene which David R. Ellis was able to work into his next film). By a srtoke of dumb luck, the Burnford family is right behind the truck. Peter spots Shadow, Hope spots Sassy, and the kids run out to go ballistic and squeeze the eyeballs out of their pets. For a minute, you think Chance got hit by the truck, and that little brat Jamie starts pouting over the loss of the same pet he's been treating like shit for months. Not only is Chance still alive, but once the family's back home, Delilah (that tramp) shows up out of nowhere. She found him by "following her nose... and her heart". Awww, well isn't that just heartwarmingly unrealistic!
So as you can see from the lack of her name in that entire review above, Veronica Lauren's parts in these movies were rather small. However, she kept her career going with a ton of television appearances, on programs like "Home Improvement", "7th Heaven", "Six Feet Under", "The Practice", "Cold Case" and many more on channel four. In my defense, I did this more to pay tribute to the late David R. Ellis, and not so much to find out what happened to the little girl in HOMEWARD BOUND. But I guess we're about to find out!
Well, it looks like Veronica rules, and we drool. I'd easily give her a bone, although I probably wouldn't even have a Shadow of a Chance. Forgive me for being Sassy (ziinngg!!). Veronica just turned 32-years-old last month, and I think she suits her age rather nicely. In case you were wondering about her career, she went on to portray Cynthia Austin in 28 episodes of "Days of Our Lives" between 2002 and 2007. Lately, she's submitted herself to some online short films, and an independent project called DROP DEAD GORGEOUS in 2010. While I wouldn't use that term to describe Veronica, she does look engagingly attractive, and naturally beautiful...
So what did we learn here today? I learned that I'm never, ever, ever letting my kid have a pet. They eat your food, shed all over the house, and destroy your family vacation faster than your furniture. More importantly, we learned that David R. Ellis is more than a man who glorified well-shot sequences of violence... he's also the dude who directed HOMEWARD BOUND II, a film that was fun for the whole family, and wound up grossing a not-too-shabby $32 million in its theatrical run in 1996. While it's sad to see him go, his work will be treasured for years to come. And as for our woman of the hour, Veronica Lauren, well... she's hot.