The Call of the Wild
Harrison Ford, Dan Stevens, Bradley Whitford, Omar Sy, Cara Gee, Colin Woodell
FilmInk rates movies out of $20 — the score indicates the amount we believe a ticket to the movie to be worth
…an amiable flick about a very good boi indeed.
Tell you what, everything else aside, a big budget adaptation of Jack London’s 1903 literary classic The Call of the Wild seems a weird fit for Disney. Under ordinary circumstances, the House of Mouse releases slick, homogenised animated films, slightly baffling ‘live action’ versions of earlier works and Star Wars flicks that make internet people apoplectically angry. Call of the Wild, while uniformly slick and very expensive-looking, hews a different path and does so in a mostly effective fashion.
The movie is the story of Buck, an enormous St. Bernard/Scotch Collie who is flogged from his home near the start and embarks on an involuntary, but exciting, adventure across the Yukon in the late 1800s. The first thing you’ll notice is that the dogs aren’t real, but motion-captured CGI and the idyllic surroundings aren’t shot on location, but also CGI. It’s a little distracting for the first fifteen minutes or so (although never as immersion breaking as the ill-advised Lion King remake), but you’ll soon find yourself engrossed in the appealing world of the film. Eventually, Buck runs into grizzled old bloke, John Thornton (Harrison Ford) and the pair form an unlikely bond and get into further adventures.
The Call of the Wild is essentially a series of lengthy vignettes, but the good news is, most of them are engaging. The turn of the century setting feels fresh in cinematic terms, even if most of the edges have been well and truly beveled off London’s original text, and the appeal of an old fashioned story about a good-hearted dog remains strong even in 2020. Harrison Ford actually seems to be having fun for a change, and a capable support cast includes Dan Stevens, Bradley Whitford, Karen Gillan and Cara Gee.
In many ways a slight, throwback to appealing family-oriented matinee movies and taken on that level, there’s quite a lot to like about The Call of the Wild. It’s unlikely to spawn an entire generation of outdoors people (particularly since most of the nature scenes are digitally rendered) but it’s an amiable flick about a very good boi indeed.