UNITED STATES─A classic novel has received another big screen adaption. I’m referring to the 1903 novel by Jack London “The Call of the Wild.” Look let me be crystal clear about this movie, while Harrison Ford is receiving top billing as the star of this movie, he’s not. The star of this movie is a dog, and that dog’s name is Buck, a St. Bernard/Scotch Collie that is a gentle soul to say the least.
This movie is a great tale for the entire family about the bond between a man and his dog. We have to address the elephant in the room because it is indeed a big one the special effects used for the movie to showcase Buck in addition to several other animals is not great. I’ve always said this from the start: special effects are to be a heightened element of the narrative.
With that said, “The Call of the Wild” has a solid story. It is not anything game-changing or vastly original because it will indeed keep the attention of the audience. The problem lies with some not so stellar effects that force the audience to scratch their heads a bit, so much to the point it takes you out of the movie. Could real dogs and wolves be used for the movie?
Yeah, and with proper training it may have worked, but we have already witnessed issues with Hollywood filmmakers and their treatment of some animals on set, so it explains why the use of CGI was relevant. With that digression, the rest of the movie really excels as the audience follows Buck on this journey to discover his place in the world.
I mean when we first meet Buck he is living a simple life with his owner Judge Miller portrayed by Bradley Whitford, but in the middle of the night he is kidnapped and becomes part of a dog sled team that delivers mail through the Yukon area. From there the audience gets to see thru a visually stunning lens how animals interact in the wild. How the alpha can be challenged by those who appear inferior and changing the power dynamics. We hear about some of these things if you’re a fan of animal planet or animals in journal. A chance encounter brings Buck into the orbit of John Thornton (Ford), who Buck returned a Harmonica to after being aboard a freighter.
We see Thornton as a protector of Buck and vice versa; each has the best interest of the other in play and we see what seems like a simple friendship, bond into a strong relationship between a dog and his owner. Yeah, that subplot involving the wealthy tycoon all about money was irrelevant. I get why the writers thought it needed to be there, but it delivered very little substance to the movie overall.
“The Call of the Wild” is a memorable movie because it reminds one of the beauties of nature and forces us to open our eyes to how animals acclimate in culture and how their dynamics, while perceived different from humans is more alike than we realize. This movie is enjoyable, fascinating and just melts the heart seeing how important a dog can be in terms of companionship for those of us living out our last days.