Movie Review: The Call of the Wild

By Andrew McManus

Starring: Harrison Ford, Dan Stevens, Omar Sy, Karen Gillian, Cara Gee

Runtime: 100 minutes

Rating: PG (for some violence, peril, thematic elements, and mild language.)

The last two weeks have been tough on our films. Last week will more than likely be the worst film I’ve seen in theaters. My hopes originally were high for this week but I cautioned my optimism. We have a classic story coming to screen in a new adaption starring my favorite actor. What could go wrong? I’m sure most of you have read the novel The Call of the Wild by Jack London. The original story was released in 1903. I’ve read it several times over the years (It’s not long.) I had watched one trailer for it and was worried about the CGI, but thought maybe it still needed polished up. We were off on an adventure like John Thronton and Buck.

Onto the film.

We open with narration from John Thorton (Harrison Ford) explaining the gold rush as we see a mix of picture sketches and animation to the prologue to this story. I’ll add that throughout this film Thronton (Ford) gives the audience some insight into Buck’s thoughts and where the story is taking us. We then meet Buck, a GIANT St. Bernard/Scotch Collie that belongs to Judge Miller. Immediately I hated the CGI. When Buck stands still he looked “real” with any movement and you could tell he wasn’t a real dog. This surprised me after seeing Disney’s work on The Lion King. I feel the technology is there. Back to Buck. He is a terror but in a good. Playfully running around, knocking things over. The kitchen staff has to hide the food from him. While this is going on we see a man find a flier about the purchase of dogs. He has his eye on Buck. That day Buck ruins a celebration by eating all the food. It is a funny moment while he jumps into the picture with a turkey leg in his mouth. (Kids will like this.) That evening he is kidnapped and his journey begins. We then see the image of a black/grey wolf. This “spirit” is with Buck throughout his journey. As Buck arrives to his new destination he meets John Thornton (Ford) they have a brief, memorable moment but it’s not their time to be together yet. First Buck must become a part of a dog sledding group delivering mail with Perrault (Sy) and Francoise (Gee). This is where we meet the first “big bad” of our film. Spitz (a husky) is the leader of the pack and hates Buck. I mentioned earlier that it the CGI looked fake. There were moments back and forth where the characters looked real and they didn’t. What helped this is the story. Twenty minutes in and I cared about Buck. I cared about the other dogs. They all had personalities an emotion. This shows that a good story, dialogue can elevate some problems.

I won’t give much more of the plot away. This is an adventure film. This is also a story about two males growing in life. One (Thronton) is trying to heal and the other Buck is figuring out who he is supposed to be This film is also a little over an hour and half long, but there is so much story, and action it feels like we are in a large epic storytelling. Bravo to the scriptwriters.

This isn’t without its faults that will keep it from a better rating. I know this is geared towards children and by all means take them, but it comes off rather cheesy at times. Some funny cheese moments some roll your eyes (come on) moments. Also the CGI, there’s a scene with a shed catching on fire that again doesn’t look real at all and takes the viewer out of it. Thankfully we have Indiana Jones himself leading this film. Harrison Ford kills it. I mentioned to my brother that he looked genuinely happy to be in this. This film is proof of a nice script and good acting can alleviate some of the lesser aspects of it. Check this film out. Take your kids and grandkids. At least it isn’t Fantasy Island. 3 ½ stars out of 5 #SHOPLOCAL

By Andrew McManus