Movie Review by Cindy Summers
Call of the Wild
2 out of 4 palm trees
Based on the book written by Jack London, “Call of the Wild” chronicles the wild adventures of a special St. Bernard/Scotch Collie named Buck, who’s both big in size and in heart, and how he went from a cushy California life, to leading a sled dog team and later becoming leader of the pack and his own life as well. Released by 20th Century Fox, Directed Chris Sanders, written by Michael Green and Starring Harrison Ford as John Thorton.
Buck was a very large, rambunctious dog owned by the local judge in a small California town. He got into trouble and was sent to sleep out on the porch where he was dognapped due to a big bounty on big dogs used in the Yukon to haul gear for gold miners. It was a long confusing journey for Buck, first on a boat, then a long hike in snow, which he had never felt before, to reach a settlement in the Alaskan Yukon during the 1890s Gold Rush. The outpost was Buck’s first interaction with John Thorton (Harrison Ford) when Thorton unknowing dropped his harmonica, which Buck saw and followed to return to him.
Buck’s next owner, Perrault (Omar Sy), was kind and patient with Buck’s transition to becoming part of a sled dog team that carried mail to remote outposts. Buck was a natural leader, but not leader of the sled dog team, though after a challenge took on that role. Buck was brave and caring for the other sled dogs and his caretakers, even saving Perrault’s girlfriend when she fell through the ice and was trapped under a frozen lake. Due to the telegraph coming to the Yukon, Perrault lost the mail route and Buck’s team was sold.
Unfortunately, a rich jerk, Hal, who brought a ton of stuff for convenience living to search for gold bought Buck’s team to carry the heavy load. Hal ran the sled dogs to exhaustion, and abused them until they could go no further. This is when Buck crossed paths with John Thorton again, who took him back to his cabin where Buck slept for two days to recover.
Thorton had come to the Yukon because he has lost his son and just wanted to be away from people and experience the adventure of the outdoors, so they set off to find places not on the map. They came across an old miner’s cabin and claimed it as their own, though after a while Buck became bored with human interaction and decided to go off into the woods to spend time with the wolves, spending more time away with each passing day.
One day, while Buck was away, Hal found their cabin and thinking he had been fooled ambushed and shot Thorton, also causing the cabin catch fire. Buck heard the gunshot and rushed to the cabin and attacked the bad guy, pushing him into the blazing cabin and killing him. Thorton succumb to his injury and passed away in Buck’s arms, and though Buck was sad he now had a new family with the timber wolf pack and became a legend.
“Call of the Wild” is quite a thrilling adventure story about a special dog, however the CGI is seriously distracting, often unrealistic and a surprise to seemingly most movie goers hearing their comments leaving the theater. Given the fact that there have been several successful films with similar storylines using actual live animals such as “Eight Below” and “Snow Dogs”, choosing CGI seems a disappointing, lazy waste.
PG (for some violence, peril, thematic elements and mild language)