Michael Green's screenplay, working off the novel by Jack London, has checkpoints laid out before us, starting the hero Saint Bernard/Shepherd dog at one point and following along with big Buck as he goes from owner to owner. It won't be the script that receives attention, in fact all of the human aspects of The Call of the Wild are fine, it is the CGI that will be a massive distraction for audiences. Using similar state of the art technology used in War for the Planet of the Apes, one instantly notices that our lead dog is not really a dog at all, it's just a guy pretending to be a dog. Although being the massive animal lover that I am, I do appreciate the safety of animals on a movie set, but for a story of this nature it feels cartoonish with a motion captured dog. It's impossible to not picture Scooby-Doo and wonder why Buck can't talk at all? On top of those technology distractions, The Call of the Wild also has multiple cliched plot points that are often laughable, instead of nobel.
The first owner for Buck is the respected Judge Miller (Bradley Whitford) who can't keep the dog from destroying a family meal. It's not long before Buck is stolen off the front porch, sold into the sled dog trade, and becomes member of a mail carrying dog team across the Alaskan Yukon, owned by minor roles for Omar Sy and Cara Gee. The highlights of the journey include a laughable WWE style dog royal rumble between Buck and the once Husky dog leader, then Buck saves his owners from falling in a frozen lake (there's always a frozen lake to fall in), and multiple bumps into Harrison Ford's John Thornton character.
It's the third act of The Call of the Wild where things become a mixture of laughably bad and pedestrian. Dan Steven's character arrives in a bright red suit and such a devilish mustache he may as well had “EVIL CHARACTER” stamped on his forehead. He's got the villain part down, but then he's also a bumbling idiot to never take serious. He drives Buck as hard as he can to find gold, until Harrison Ford saves him and the two become the best of pals on their own adventure. The relationship that grows between Ford and the CGI dog is fine, it's neither exciting enough, nor emotional enough for us to care. Even the arrival of dog puppies did nothing for me. It's what you get when you have a story that fails to grasp the adventure part and doesn’t have a real dog for us to care about.
At the end I found myself struggling to understand who The Call of the Wild was for? You could bring your kids, but they would undoubtedly be bored with it and the parents will be waiting for it to end. Do you take a date to this movie? Will people who like to hunt or camp enjoy this? Not really, since the set designs are filled with fake snow, the cinematography by Janusz Kaminski looks like an inauthentic screen saver on your computer, and to top it all, it's filled to the brim with distracting CGI. I like that Harrison Ford is trying something new, getting away from his classic characters, still furiously pointing his finger at someone, but next time I hope he's in something that's actually good. The Call of the Wild is a tame failure that is forgotten quickly.
Written by: Leo Brady
MOVIE: THE CALL OF THE WILD
STARRING: HARRISON FORD; DAN STEVENS; KAREN GILLIAN; OMAR SY
DIRECTED BY: CHRIS SANDERS
AMovieGuy.com's RATING: 2 STARS (Out of 4)
Out in the wild, it's CGI dogs and a big boring slog. With a title such as The Call of the Wild, I guess I was expecting much more adventure, a fear of the elements, and the threat of death. There's a little bit of that at hand, but director Chris Sanders and his team of animators, are so preoccupied with getting the computer animals right, that they forget to make anything about this movie thrilling. It's the story of a dog named Buck, his journey from house dog, to sled dog, to eventually being a companion to a bearded Harrison Ford. His journey is a winding one, but The Call of the Wild is lacking in all excitement to call it an adventure. This is more like The Call of the Mild.