The Call of the Wild
review by Bobby Blakey
The famed book The Call of the Wild from author Jack London has been turned into numerous films dating back to 1923. Now another new adaptation of the property is coming to the big screen from How to Train Your Dragon director Chirs Sanders starring Harrison Ford, Dan Stevens, Omar Sy, Karen Gillan, Bradley Whitford, and Colin Woodell. Could this latest adaptation bring the adventure or will it be a journey not worthy of the wild?
The Call of the Wild follows the story of Buck, a big-hearted dog whose blissful domestic life is turned upside down when he is suddenly uprooted from his California home and transplanted to the exotic wilds of the Alaskan Yukon during the Gold Rush of the 1890s. As the newest rookie on a mail delivery dog sled team--and later its leader--Buck experiences the adventure of a lifetime, ultimately finding his true place in the world and becoming his own master.
I love this story and while the trailers looked like a fun adventure I was a bit concerned with the CGI version of Buck. It came off kind of cartoon like in his persona and had me worried that he was going to be distracting to the bigger story. While he does take some getting used to, I can say it works pretty darn well and the movie delivers. Of course I would have preferred a real dog, but the things they did and personality that gave him shines through this way and you quickly fall in love with him. As an animal lover it is a mixed bag as I love seeing real life smart animals to amazing things, but also don’t like seeing them put through unnecessary trauma and conditions just to shoot a film. In the end I think the CGI Buck was a good idea.
The story is strong and for those thinking this is a Harrison Ford movie you would be wrong. Yes he is in the film off and on through the first half and then regularly from then forward, but this is Buck’s movie all the way. This is a bout his journey and it’s a pretty great journey to behold. I don’t think there is anything here overly new to the story or even in these kinds of films, but getting the dog’s perspective made it feel fresh. I thought his interaction with the other animals might feel off to, but it worked and is a big part of this film. Ford’s time here is great and he looks to be all in bringing a emotional performance at times to a man on his own journey. These two are great on screen with enough emotion and fun that you buy into this as a real friendship.
Is it a perfect film? No, but it works. There are some of the CGI moments that aren’t as crisp as others and I think they made Buck a bit too out of character for a real dog at times. The thing is that you love watching him so much you don’t really care. I was looking forward to the film and ended up enjoying more than I thought I would. It reminded me of the old Disney adventure films that we just don’t get enough of anymore and great for the whole family, but be warned there are some darker moments involving animal fights and bad people at times for those thinking taking the kids.