Movie review: ‘The Call of the Wild’ is a timeless tale for kids of all ages

Fred Hawson, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Feb 22 2020 10:55 AM

Harrison Ford and Buck in a scene from ‘The Call of the Wild’

"The Call of the Wild" was a novel written by Jack London in 1903. There had been a number of movie adaptations of this book over the years, with those starring big stars of their respective eras, like Clark Gable (in 1935), and Charlton Heston (in 1972) as the more popular versions. 

This year, yet another movie version has been released taking full advantage of the special visual effect technology available now. Taking over the lead human role is another big name star, Harrison Ford.

Buck, a huge hyperactive dog of St. Bernard lineage, was the pet of Judge Miller (Bradley Whitford) in Sta. Clara, California. One night, he was stolen from the judge's home and sold to traders supplying dogs to the gold prospectors in the Yukon region. 

Buck's first master was the mail courier Perrault (Omar Sy) and his indigenous partner Francoise (Cara Gee). Buck's next master was a cruel man Hal (Dan Stevens) who worked him to the point of near death. This prompted old man John Thornton (Harrison Ford) to go to Buck's rescue. 

Harrison Ford was all grizzled up here with his unkempt gray hair and beard. Nevertheless he still got to show off his skills in fighting, rifle shooting and canoe rowing. He even proudly bared his ripped 77 year-old torso in a scene where he was taking a bath in the river (he denied any digital enhancement for his physique). 

He is no doubt fit and ready for his upcoming 5th installment of the Indiana Jones franchise expected later this year. With all the manly roles he had taken on over his long career, this actor is really an icon of manhood. 

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What was clearly evident from the get-go was that "Buck" was not portrayed by a real dog. He was a computer-generated image, portrayed in motion capture by Terry Notary (motion-capture actor in similar films like "Jungle Book," "Kong: Skull Island" and the "Planet of the Apes" series). 

While there admittedly were a number of touching moments of canine cuteness, the CG imagery of Buck and all the other dogs and animals sort of took away some of the impact of what were supposed to be breathtaking nature scenes.

Anyhow, it was also because of this imprecise style of CG (not as realistic as that of the "live" version of "The Lion King" last year) that Buck and his friends were able to portray certain human-like facial expressions of concern, fear, sadness, anger, jealousy, among others, which translated into some pretty touching moments, and delightful ones as well. 

There are scenes of violence that require parental guidance, like those involving the alpha dog Spitz and all of those with the villain Hal. In general though, this is a solid, good, old-fashioned outdoor adventure film for kids of all ages, even if they are not familiar with the book. 

This review was originally published in the author's blog, "Fred Said."