Reel Reviews | The Call of the Wild

by Charles Kirkland Jr.

The famous Jack London novel gets another treatment as Harrison Ford befriends Buck the dog in The Call of the Wild.

Judge Miller has a problem, well the city actually has the problem. Judge Miller’s dog, Buck. Buck is an enormous house dog that does what he wants when he wants and everybody just has to steer clear. Until one night when Buck is dognapped and shipped out to the Yukon during the Gold Rush. All on his own, in a strange new (and cold) land, Buck must learn to survive and for that, he must hear the call of his inner wolf.

Written by Michael Green (Logan, Blade Runner 2049) and inspired by the book by Jack London, The Call of the Wild stars Harrison Ford, Dan Stevens, Karen Gillan, Bradley Whitford, Cara Gee, and Omar Sy. Director Chris Sanders (Lilo and Stitch, How to Train Your Dragon) is a veteran at creating animated family movies and while this film has live actors like Ford, all the animals in the film are computer-generated.

The Call of the Wild signals the end of an era. While the Disney buyout of Fox has unified the Marvel universe, this movie is the first to signal the end of the road from Fox. The opening credits show the 20th Century logo with the Fox removed. While it doesn’t say 20th Century Disney, this movie may as well be a Disney creation.

For better or worse, Disney has engaged in the creation of live-action versions of its extensive animated feature library. The “live-action” description has been a bit of a misnomer when Disney created The Lion King with computer-generated animals. Well, they have done it again with this movie. In the past iterations of this film, there have been live actors with trained animals. While CGI animals are easier to use there is a significant loss of authenticity here. The dogs in Wild have facial expressions to communicate, their cartoony antics detract from the ability to take the movie seriously. While this may play well for children, it is a problem for those who many adults who are trying to enjoy the movie.

Harrison Ford who plays the troubled loner, John Thornton, seems to have trouble interacting with the cartoonish Buck even though he has been known for interacting with animatronic creatures and puppets in the Star Wars franchise. The problem may be that wherein Star Wars he actually sees the alien in front of him, in this case, he is looking at a man (Terry Notary) who is crawling around in a motion-capture suit.

Having said all of that, this film is truly a Disney production in its themes and scope. Not Disney/Pixar just plain Disney. There are moments that are cute. There are moments that are funny. There are even moments that are tear provoking. Unfortunately, this movie has been done several times previously on the big and the small screens and except for the CGI animals, there is not anything really new here.

Rated PG for violence, peril, thematic elements and mild language, The Call of the Wild is a predictable movie with predictable elements. It is entertaining for a new generation but it’s too bad there wasn’t a better call to action.

Grade: C