'The Call Of The Wild' review: A charming canine caper


  • Movie Review
  • Saturday, 22 Feb 2020

"Hey Buck, can I call you Chewie instead?" Photos: Walt Disney Studios

The Call Of The Wild
Director: Chris Sanders
Cast: Harrison Ford, Dan Stevens, Omar Sy, Karen Gillan, Bradley Whitford, Colin Woodell

This is the story of a dog. Yes, yes, I know, there have been 101 stories about dogs in the cinemas lately, so what makes this one different?

Well, for one, this movie is based on The Call Of The Wild a novel by Jack London that was published in 1903, and has had numerous film adaptations, the earliest a silent film released in 1923. Subsequent films based on the novel include a 1935 version starring Clark Gable, a 1972 film starring Charlton Heston, and an anime film that featured the voice of Bryan Cranston. So you see, this story of a dog has quite a bit of history behind it, and also star power to boot. The 2020 version of The Call Of The Wild is no different – this time around, Harrison Ford is in the leading role (as one of the dog's friends/masters, not as the dog).

Buck learnt his survival skills from the School of Ruff Knocks.Buck learnt his survival skills from the School of Ruff Knocks.

Anyway, this is the story of a dog named Buck. Buck is a big dog, nay, a HUGE dog who lives with the mayor of a small town in the warm, southern part of the United States. Up North in a Canadian region called Yukon, however, a gold rush is happening, and big dogs are in high demand, need for pulling sleds and carry stuff for the prospectors and residents of the area.

So, a crook decides to dog-nap Buck for a quick buck, and before you know it, our intrepid canine hero is in the harsh coldness of the north, being forced to pull sleds.

Along the way, he crosses paths with a man named John Thornton (Ford), and the two form a bond that goes far beyond that of master and pet.

Now, before you go joking about how this is the story of how Han Solo met Chewbacca, let me stop you right there. This isn't a story about a man who befriends a dog and finds his life changed as a result (which is pretty much what most dog movies are about). This is about a dog who is forced out of his comfortable home and into the harshness of the wild, and learning to fend for himself, and the computer animation that brings Buck to life is good enough to give him a charming, lovable presence that pretty much overshadows even his human co-stars. Yes, even Ford.

Say my sweater is ugly again. I dare you.Say my sweater is ugly again. I dare you.

That's not to say Ford isn't any good in this movie. It may seem like a bit of a cakewalk for an actor of his calibre, but Ford gives the relatively simple script and plot a certain gravitas that helps to elevate it this from average dog movie to an above average dog movie. Omar Sy and Karen Gillan also have a fun turn as a couple who recruits Buck as part of their mail sled team, and also Buck's first post-dognapping masters.

I'll admit that I'm not exactly a dog person, but even I found this to be a pretty fun watch, thanks in part to Ford's performance and how endearing Buck is. If you actually like dogs, however, then this movie will be a nice juicy bone for you to chew on.

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6.5 10

Summary:

A bit ruff around the edges, but its bark is as good as its bite.

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