Wednesday, July 15, 2020

Movie Review: The Call of the Wild (2020)

Stars: 3 out of 5
Pros: Strong, fun first part
Cons: Depressing ending; CGI inconsistent
The Bottom Line:
Dog in the Yukon
First part filled with adventure
Ending lets it down

Will Buck Survive the Yukon?

I was intrigued when I saw that a new version of The Call of the Wild was being released.  I didn’t try to see it in the theater, but I did decide to rent it from Redbox.  While it started well, it went downhill as it went along.

The story follows Buck, a dog who has a good life living with a judge and his family in California in the 1890’s.  However, his life changes when he is dognapped and sold to a dogsledding team in Alaska.  While he takes to this life and serves his new masters, Perrault and Francoise (Omar Sy and Cara Gee) well, his life is destined to change again.  What will ultimately happen to him?

I know I read this book as a kid, but it’s been years since I did, so I don’t really remember the story.  As a result, I can’t talk about how well this movie version sticks to Jack London’s classic.  I’m kind of interested in rereading the original now because I don’t remember having the reaction I did to the story as presented here.

The movie starts out well, and it is easy to root for Buck.  While none of the animals in the movie talk, we do get a voice over narration that helps us get to know Buck as a character.  For the first half of the movie, I was rooting for Buck, and it was easy to find the story heartwarming and uplifting.

In fact, my only complaint in the first part was the CGI.  All the animals in the movie are completely computer effects.  I get it, considering some of the things the animals have to do in the film.  But it also looks fake at times.  Most of it looks fine, but every so often there is a moment that is clearly CGI.

The locations are gorgeous.  Of course, considering how much CGI is used in this film, I’m wondering how much of the locations were real and how much of them were computer generated as well.

You’ll notice that, so far, I haven’t talked about Harrison Ford, but he’s the main human cast member that was discussed in the promotion for the film.  He’s the narrator I mentioned earlier in the film, but he does play a part as well.  His character pops up early in the film but doesn’t really become important to the film until the second half.

Unfortunately, it’s the second part where the movie begins to fall apart.  Mind you, this isn’t Harrison Ford’s fault; this is the result of the story that is being told.  The story takes a depressing turn, and the climax is really sad.  I really do feel that the first half was promising an uplifting story and then the second half gave us something else.  This is what makes me want to go back and reread the story to see what how the original ended.

The end result is a mixed bag.  The Call of the Wild isn’t nearly as good as I hoped it would be, but it isn’t as bad as it could have been.  If you are interested, by all means check it out, but I won’t go out of my way to watch it again.

1 comment:

  1. As is the case in the movie adaptation biz, "Call of the Wild" alters many details from London's novel. It has to, because (a) there has to be some variance in order to keep some element of surprise in the film, and (b) London's ending has a more complicated and possibly controversial (in our times, anyway) ending.

    Even so, the film, flaws and all, is faithful to the themes in the novel. In the end, that's the important thing.