A dog named Buck is taken from his home in California and taken to Alaska to be a sled dog. Buck soon learns to find his place in the frontier of Alaska.
Director: Chris Sanders
Cast: Harrison Ford, Omar Sly, Cara Gee, Dan Stevens, Bradley Whitford, Karen Gillan
MPAA Rating: PG for some violence, peril, thematic elements and mild language
Fun Fact: To honor Jack London’s love a nature, production was eco-friendly. There was no single use plastic bottles, biodegradable cutlery and plates, and all leftover food was donated.
In 1903 Jack London wrote his classic novel The Call of the Wild. It is considered one of the greatest American novels of all time and has had many film adaptations over many years. I have not had the liberty of reading the novel so I will not be able to commentate on how accurate the 2020 version is to the source material. All I know is how important the novel is to many that had grown up reading it. In fact if you have read the novel, I would not mind hearing what you have to say in how close of an adaptation it is or not.
This version is a solid made film and I would families get together and give it a shot. The production values are high, and it is a nice-looking film. While it is a shame it was not filmed in Alaska itself, the locations that are used in some scenes are nice to look at though. The set pieces used as the houses in some scenes looked authentic to that time period. This film has quite a bit of CGI use to it. While it is distracting to some, to me I did not mind it to much and there were moments that I forgot that it was CGI. I was just focused on what was going on the screen at the time. The biggest thing is that the dogs are all CGI which is a hit and miss. I can understand why they went that route. For one it is safer to go that route and there is no worry about an animal getting hurt on the set or mistreatment. Then again you could use real dogs in the action scenes and do it in a safe way. The reason that it can be a miss is in some of the non-action scenes a real dog could be standing in to make it a little more realistic.
Director Chris Sanders does a fine job with the material that is given to him. The film focuses heavily on Buck, the main dog and character of the story. Buck is focused heavily like he should be with the human characters peppered in throughout. Buck shows resilience and is not afraid to stand up to things that are not right. Omar Sly who plays a mail carrier is supportive to Buck and you watch their relationship grow. There is a scene between the two that is sad but needed to progress the story and the scene is well done. Harrison Ford is not in the film much in the first half but when he is featured more the film picks up more. His relationship with Buck is genuine. Ford makes it feel like there is a real dog and brings Buck to like in a new way. I liked the scenes they were in together and it felt like there was actual chemistry to it.
John Powell, the composer of the film does a fantastic job with the music. It has a nice frontier style of sound and it fits in the timeline the film presents. It also has a nice energy to elevate the more tense scenes. The music helped those scenes in away that I was having a couple of white-knuckle moments. I am going to have to find the soundtrack to give it another listen to.
Overall, the 2020 version of The Call of the Wild is a well-crafted film that relays a great message that families should take a look at. The theme of going on a journey, showing courage in times of trouble, and finding your place in life are all great messages. What I can gather is those are the main themes of the novel and I would have to believe that the film does a good job of portraying those. While the CGI can be distracting to some, I can see why the film makers went that route. It is nice to see that the lead character, Buck, is the focal point and does not play a back seat to the human characters. Harrison Ford delivers a solid performance and even his chemistry with a CGI dog feels authentic. Throw in some great music and you have a solid made film that is worth checking out on rental.
Wife’s Verdict: Middle Ground it was one of those films that you see once and that is fine.