Chris Sanders’ directorial debut is an adaptation of the 1903 novel by John London. The film, set in the 1890s, focuses on a dog called Buck who goes on an adventure of self-discovery after being stolen from his home.
The thing that is apparent from the very beginning is that the CGI used to create Buck isn’t incredible, you notice straight away that this isn’t a real dog and that might be quite off-putting to some viewers. You realise early on why this decision was made, as the film tries to give Buck a unique personality and charm that simply wouldn’t be possible with a real dog, but nevertheless, it’s noticeable, and after seeing CGI animals in films like The Jungle Book and The Lion King, it’s unfortunate to say that the CGI definitely could have been better and more realistic.
But, when you look past the effects, what follows is an exciting, fun adventure that is fun for all the family. Buck is a very loveable protagonist and kids are going to love him, you get invested in his story and you’ll no doubt be rooting for him throughout.
Obviously, the man attraction and focus point of the marketing hasn’t really been the dog, but the main star Harrison Ford. Now, if you’re going just to see him, then prepare yourself for a slight disappointment as he isn’t as prominent in the film as you may expect. He doesn’t really start getting involved in the story properly until about halfway through and his main contribution doesn’t really come until the final third of the film. But, unsurprisingly, Ford steals every scene he’s in and his performance is great. I got the vibe he had good fun making this film and he definitely carries it forward and gives the film a much-needed gravitas. The rest of the cast do a great job too, but with Buck being the primary focus, nobody really gets too much to do, but they all do the best with what little they’re given.
I didn’t know anything about the book, so I’ve done some research since and I’ve noticed that this film has been heavily watered-down to appeal to a younger audience. Some of the more mature themes and moments have been omitted in favour of more child-friendly sequences. Does it succeed? I’d say so. This is a harmless, fun, family film that is going to be suitable for all ages. It’s not perfect by any stretch, and I won’t be in a rush to watch it again, but I had a good time and if you ever have a spare hour and a half, you could choose worse films to put on!
It’s a shame that it has been a box-office bomb, as I wouldn’t say it deserves to be, but this is the industry!
I give The Call of the Wild a 6/10.