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  • Writer's pictureAlex First

The Call of the Wild (PG) - 100 minutes

Updated: Feb 26, 2020

A shaggy dog story with trite, platitudinous commentary and a far-fetched narrative, The Call of the Wild is not the greatest boys’ own adventure.

Written by Michael Green (Logan), based upon Jack London’s 1903 short novella, it is the story of big-hearted dog Buck’s coming of age.

Buck’s blissful – if frenzied – domestic life is turned upside down when he is suddenly uprooted from his California home and transplanted to the exotic wilds of the Canadian Yukon during the Gold Rush of the 1890s.

First up, Buck is the newest rookie on a mail delivery dog sled team operated by Perrault (Omar Sy). The work may be extremely tough, but he revels in it.

Mind you, much more is to come as old-fashioned methods of post transportation give way to new technology.

Buck is bought by a new, cruel master, eventually finding his way into the hands of an ageing loner (Harrison Ford), who has a tragic tale of his own that continues to haunt him.

The Call of the Wild is a hybrid film insofar as the cinematography is blended with digitally-created dogs and other animals.

Unquestionably the best thing about the picture is the massive hound – intelligent, strong and instinctive – around whom the tale is centred.

Nothing will tame his spirit and that is what makes him such a great hero.

He looks real and yet, as just mentioned, the effect is all captured through remarkable CGI.

Some of the chapters within the overall story undoubtedly work better than others.

I particularly appreciated Buck when he was responsible for delivering the mail and then when he became Ford’s companion.

Mind you, I found his narration twee.

At one point I thought of the cartoon Snidley Whiplash – the arch enemy of Dudley Do-Right in the animated TV series The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show – when reflecting upon one of the dog’s short-lived owners.

Anything involving his character was a disaster.

As a supposed family film, The Call of the Wild – directed by Chris Sanders (How To Train Your Dragon) – will have greatest appeal to kids and dog lovers, but it looks and feels contrived.

The filmmakers would have been far better off sticking to one or another narrative arc, rather than trying to join the dots and failing half the time.

Rated PG, it scores a 5½ to 6 out of 10.


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