Call of the Wild
Disney and a dog movie and Harrison Ford---what can go wrong?
And yet somehow, with all the high-tech wizardry in developing a
virtual canine, and all the spectacular scenery of
turn-of-the-20th-century Alaska wildnerss, the movie plays more like a
Buck begins his life as a family pet of a local judge (Bradley
Whitford). Buck brazenly eats from the table while the whole family's
outside posing for a photograph. He's
big, spoiled, and undisciplined, but soon the gravy travy train is over,
as Buck is kidnapped by some cruel dudes who beat him with a club, then
sell him to a Frenchman named Perrault (Omar Sy), who with his partner
Francoise (Cara Gee) delivers the mail by dogsled.
On the dogsled, Buck learns teamwork and self-discipline, as well
as accomplishing a daring rescue under a frozen ice pond.
His size and strength dictate that he would one day be the lead
dog, but then the dogsled team is abruptly de-commissioned----by the
advent of the telegraph.
Now Buck is sold once more, this time to the villain of our
melodrama, the mustachioed Hal (Dan Stevens), who's only interested in
discovering gold in the Klondike region.
So he overloads his sled and literally whips the dogs through the
mud of the spring thaw, until they are virtually dead on their feet.
Now ambles in our gruff and grizzled hero, John Thornton (Harrison
Ford, who also narrates), who saves Buck from certain destruction, as well
as managing to win the permanent emnity of the greedy, selfish investor
Hal. But Buck manages to
withold the whiskey from the self-pitying John, who's still drowning his
sorrows over the loss of his boy to the fever (and the subsequent demise
of his marriage). Suddenly
sober, John decides it's high time to get out of the cabin and go
Now comes the bucolic part, when Buck and John go off on an
adventure into the unchartered wild country, first by canoe, and when
that's damaged by white-water rafting, by foot.
They stumble on an old prospector's cabin, where they happily set
up camp. Buck finds the wilds
most enjoyable, and happily brings game and fish to John for them both to
eat. John even stumbles on
some gold nuggets in the nearby creek.
But Buck, in his wildnerness wanderings, finds a greater
treasure----a female white wolf, who introduces him to life in the
wolfpack. Buck's visits to
John's adopted cabin start getting less frequent, as Buck answers “The
Call of the Wild.”
So what's a “happily ever after” ending to this imaginative
yarn? Probably not what the
scriptwriters decided upon. The
screenplay's unevenness manages to drag down the positive vibes of man and
dog redeeming each other. There
are some good moments, but overall, it's an emotional disappointment.