Harrison Ford Omar Sy Cara Gee Bradley Whitford
Karen Gillan Dan Stevens Colin Woodell
In giving children a dose of nature without so much of the cruelty and violence to dogs that are in the novel, this movie succeeds. The dogs and wolves are beautiful and the Alaskan scenery is gorgeous. (Kudos to cinematographer Janusz Kaminski for the photographic beauty as well as filming maneuvers.) The dog Buck’s experiences are models of behavior that can be beneficial to kids, such as the kindness he shows even to strangers, and a logical separation towards the end of the story. Adults may not take to the film as much as children because of the overly human-like appearance and behaviors of the animals, especially Buck, and the lack of suspense in figuring out what will happen.
In the beginning, Buck is shown to be rambunctious, not suitable for the genteel life of his owner on plantation-sized property. This is patient Judge Miller (Whitford) who gently chides him for charging through the house and town and knocking things over—including the mailman. After one hectic day, the judge makes him sleep on the porch at night “to think over” what he has done. This gives a local thief the opportunity to dog-nap Buck and sell him.
From there, Buck’s adventures are with various masters, the first one cruel and Buck manages to run away, then he is bought by a couple with a dog sled delivering mail, then by another couple with an outsized hunger for gold (this is during 19thcentury gold rush times) the husband (Stevens) being not only selfish and cruel but stupid as well. Harrison Ford as John Thornton narrates the story and appears from time to time in Buck’s life as someone with normal sympathies for the oppressed. Thornton and Buck end up together and prove to be good pals, despite Thornton’s reluctance in the beginning, and each must rescue the other on critical occasions.
Based on Jack London’s continuing successful novel of the same name, The Call of the Wild movie in 2020 is the seventh film rendition of the story, not including a TV series. Complaints about it center mostly around the computer-generated dog Buck, which the viewer may find a little creepy, especially when he reacts and communicates so much like a human figure and very un-dog-like. Another criticism is about this being simply another repeat of the story on film. How filmmakers can justify it is beyond me. How much better it would be for them to use their resources to create something new. After all, the film industry is replete with talented people.
A coming-of-age story for the dog Buck who travels from a genteel southern plantation to the snow covered Alaskan Yukon with life-changing events along the way.