#REVIEW: “THE CALL OF THE WILD”
By George Kozera for Mr. Will Wong
Jack London’s Novel, The Call of the Wild, was required reading in my grade school and I remember being enthralled as a young boy by the adventures of Buck, the huge St. Bernard/Scotch Collie dog in the Arctic. The book had been adapted for the screen many times since its publication in 1903 and its latest cinematic version, from Disney, is hugely entertaining.
After being dognapped from his comfortable home where Buck had full reign, he winds up in the Great White North, where after a Rom-Com-esque first meeting with the boozy and grizzled prospector, Thornton (played with aplomb and sensitivity by Harrison Ford), he is put to work by a French-Canadian couple (Omar Sy and Cara Gee) as part of a dog sled team that delivers the mail to many settlements. After a played for laughs, clumsy beginning, Buck earns the respect of the other dogs on the team and their human owners after a brave and daring rescue in the water of a frozen over lake and a fight to the death of the alpha-dog leader. At the final destination where we learn that mail delivery by dog sled has now become a thing of the past, Buck and the other dogs have a new owner. Hal (played with comic book, moustache-twirling villainy by Dan Stevens) is a sadistic, greedy adventurer who, along with his wife and an overloaded sleigh, has little regard to the safety and well-being of the four legged animals. Buck ultimately is rescued by Thornton and the two co-exist peacefully until Buck is called into the wild in a series of events.
THE CALL OF THE WILD succeeds on many levels. The multiple action sequences are genuinely exciting and spectacularly filmed by double Oscar-winning Cinematographer Janusz Kaminski. Whether it be the dog sled team outrunning an avalanche or capturing the majestic Northern Lights and the glorious vistas of the Arctic, the movie is visually-stunning. Ford lately seems to give more and thrives when he is a supporting character and THE CALL OF THE WILD is no exception. It is a fully realized and captivating performance. However, the most remarkable thing about this Movie is that there no animals used in the making of THE CALL OF THE WILD. The dogs, timber wolves and bears were all CG creations – in fact, the role of Buck was performed by Terry Notary, a former Cirque du Soleil performer who just might give the King of motion-capture performances, Andy Serkis, a run for his money! Disney excels in photo-realistic animal animation, as noted by its recent Oscar nomination for special effects for The Lion King, and this Movie is a further testament to that brilliance.
THE CALL OF THE WILD is vividly-entertaining. It will engage the younger audience members and stop the adults from staring at their wristwatches wondering when the Movie will end. It triumphantly meets the call.
Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures Canada release THE CALL OF THE WILD Friday, February 21, 2020.