Last night, Jackson and I were invited to see a preview of the new movie “The Call of the Wild” starring Harrison Ford.
Having read the book as a kid, I was excited to see the movie version. I think Jackson was just excited to go into the city for the night. Here is our spoiler-free review.
“The Call of the Wild”
“The Call of the Wild” is adapted from the 1903 novel by Jack London. The story follows the adventures of Buck, a large dog whose life is turned upside-down when he is uprooted from domestic life and finds himself in the wilds of the Yukon territory during the Gold Rush era.
Finding his place among other dogs, humans, and wild animals in harsh conditions, Buck discovers something within himself passed down by his ancestors. But will it give him the strength to answer the call of the wild?
Movie Adaptations of “The Call of the Wild”
It didn’t take long after the book’s success for it to hit theaters. A silent film version of the tale was released in 1923. Since then, there have been several other versions of “The Call of Wild”, some starring notable actors such as Clark Gable in 1935 and Charlton Heston in 1972.
Live Action + CGI
The creators of this newest version of “The Call of the Wild” describe the movie as a live-action/animation hybrid. What this means is that the animals aren’t real, but are supposed to look real.
In the beginning of the movie, I could tell Buck was more CGI than real dog. It was a little distracting, especially when you see a human actor interacting with Buck, but by the end of the movie I wasn’t hung up on it anymore.
In a way, the ability to control the animals’ expressions help tell the story. It made me understand what they were feeling, which made me care about what happened to them even more.
When I asked Jackson what he thought about the animated dogs, he said I was wrong. He thought the dogs looked too real to have been animated.
Is “The Call of the Wild” okay for kids?
The “Call of the Wild” movie has a PG rating, and parents should be aware that there are several violent scenes. That said, the movie is nowhere near as brutal in its depictions of violence as the book. I believe a truer adaptation of the book would have merited a PG-13 rating.
The abuse and violence that Buck endures are an integral part of the story, but the movie only shows enough to drive that home without crossing the line into being gratuitous.
There are moments where the deaths of characters occur but are implied rather than shown, leaving younger kids like Jackson to wonder what happened. There were a number of parts of the movie I had to explain to him afterwards.
Good Mix of Action and Humor
Overall, “The Call of the Wild” is a good mix of action movie and a touching story of a dog’s life. Jackson said he enjoyed the action sequences the most, and I noticed he would squirm in his seat during the slower parts.
But those parts were also where the audience would laugh out loud at the interactions between Buck and the other dogs, or between Buck and his human masters. I imagine having experience with dogs makes viewers appreciate those scenes even more.
All in all, “The Call of the Wild” is a solid family movie that captures most of the spirit, if not all the details, of Jack London’s classic tale, while sparing us the worst of the savage nature of man and beast. Instead, it inspires us to appreciate that voice within ourselves that longs to explore and seek adventure, while balancing it with showing how kindness can make a difference.
About “The Call of The Wild”
“The Call of the Wild” is directed by Chris Sanders and stars Harrison Ford, Omar Sy, Dan Stevens, Karen Gillan, Bradley Whitford, Cara Gee, Michael Horse, Jean Louisa Kelly, Colin Woodell, Adam Fergus and Abraham Benrubi. Erwin Stoff, p.g.a. and James Mangold, p.g.a. are producing with Diana Pokorny, Ryan Stafford and screenwriter Michael Green serving as executive producers.
“The Call of the Wild” opens in U.S. theaters on February 21, 2020. Tickets are available now.
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