Adventure Drama

Review: ‘The Call of the Wild’ Brings a Timeless Classic to Life for a New Generation

February 19, 2020Britany Murphy

Directed by Chris Sanders and based on the timeless classic of the same name by Jack London, The Call of the Wild isn't the first time the book has been adapted for the big screen. However, this most recent retelling does try to do some new things with the story while still remaining true to the novel.

A spirited canine by the name of Buck is living his best life in California. The dog of Judge Miller (Bradley Whitford), Buck has been spoiled to the point of recklessness. Usually able to get away with anything, Buck has a penchant for doing things he shouldn't, including — but not limited to — nearly knocking over furniture and antiques, stopping traffic, and stealing food that does not belong to him. While Buck's owners typically overlook his troublemaking behavior, one day he goes too far. And when his owner sets Buck out on the porch for the night to think about what he did, Buck is lured away by one of the townspeople, who then sells the dog for profit.

Unsure of where he's headed and what to expect next, the perplexed Buck ends up on a boat that's headed to Skagway, Alaska, where, upon his arrival, Buck runs off and bumps into the gruff-but-kind John Thornton (Harrison Ford), before ultimately being bought by a man named Perrault (Omar Sy) for his dog sled team. But when an unexpected setback grounds Buck and the team is purchased by the vicious, gold-seeking Hal (Dan Stevens), Buck is once again reunited with John after warning Hal and his compatriots Mercedes (Karen Gillan) and Charles (Colin Woodell) that the trail is too treacherous to travel. From there, Buck and John go off on their own adventure — one where Buck finally discovers his greater place in the world.

It's hard to picture any actor other than Ford in the leading role. Despite his character's grumpy demeanor, underneath lies a kindhearted soul who's dealing with losses of his own and is also looking to figure out where he belongs. Sy and Cara Gee (who plays Perrault's partner, Francoise) are also extremely entertaining, and their characters' squabbles with one another, not to mention Buck, are a treat to watch, while Stevens is pitch-perfect as the villainous Hal. One can't help but hate the character's entitled attitude, cowardice and greed; but, of course, that is a testament to the convincing nature of Stevens' performance.

While there are some moments where it would have been nice to see a real dog or two, it's easy to understand why the filmmakers went with a complete CGI Buck. As for the scenery and the cinematography, both are beautiful, and as an audience member, you truly feel immersed in the complete Yukon experience. From the snow and the mountains to the Northern Lights, everything comes together wonderfully on-screen, making The Call of the Wild an adventure that is likely to please all members of the family.

The Call of the Wild releases February 20th, 2020 from 20th Century Studios. The film has an MPAA rating of PG for some violence, peril, thematic elements and mild language. Its runtime is 1 hr. 40 min.

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