I never thought I’d say it but a fully drawn CGI dog grabbed at my heartstrings with the 2020 film adaptation of Jack London’s literary classic “The Call Of The Wild.”
A gravelly voiced Harrison Ford narrates the ongoing journey of the St. Bernard named Buck who is kidnapped from his master’s home and eventually ends up in Alaska where a gold rush is in full swing. People from all places have come to the winter landscape during the turn of the century to purchase sled dogs as they venture off into the snow capped regions to uncover precious gold and get rich.
Buck is first recruited to drive two mail carriers (Omar Sy, Cara Gee; likable performances) through the Yukon. Though, he’s domesticated at first and not experienced with the command of “mush” and running in frigid temperatures to keep in step with seven other dogs, including the cruel canine leader known as Spitz. Soon, Buck vies for his place as leader with strength and determination and especially the respect he’s earned from the other dogs.
A second story puts him at the hands of a very cruel master named Hal (Dan Stevens). Buck and the other dogs suffer at his cruelty to continue the journey in search of gold only to get rescued by the frontiersman John Thornton (Harrison Ford). John and Buck’s relationship is the best and most touching piece of the film as it comes at a time when both characters need one another. John mourns the loss of his son as he decided to leave his wife. Buck is hurting physically while still perplexed at his Yukon surroundings.
I liked “The Call Of The Wild.” Though my suspension of disbelief was shattered as quick as it started. While it’s hard for me to accept that Buck will get Thornton to dry out on alcohol, as well as insist that he lead the pack by putting his foot-I mean paw- down, I could not help but be taken up in the midst of it all. Look, if Disney’s many animal characters can grab the emotions of countless moviegoers, then why can’t CGI “Buck” do the same as well. “Moving Picture Company” are the architects behind the CGI and they have achieved a nice blend of performance, emotion and effects with Buck and the other animals.
Harrison Ford responds well to the unreal animal that’s by his side. I bought it all whether they are on the canoe fighting the rapids or sharing a tent together or when Thornton sadly realizes that Buck is mapping out a new life in the wild, with a beautiful white Timberwolf. The director, Chris Sanders, periodically offers Buck a spirit to guide his destiny in the shape of beautiful yellow eyed, midnight black wolf as well.
I can’t say if this film follows London’s book precisely or goes completely off course. All I know is the film really took hold of me as I worried for Buck’s outcome. I left the film thinking of the silly, misbehaving Buck in the comfort of a master’s home all the way through the harsh elements of nature, and his encounters with the cruelty of man but also the respect of man. I really enjoyed “The Call Of The Wild.”