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‘Call of the Wild’ a competent new take on a classic tale


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Jack London’s “The Call of the Wild” is a tale that gets re-told every few years. There’s a reason for that: It’s a terrific story with strong themes that’s relatable to most young people even though its protagonist is a dog. There’s a new adaptation of “The Call of the Wild” in theaters now, and thanks to epic scale, beautiful cinematography and the presence of Harrison Ford, it’s a pretty good watch.

The basic story: Buck, an enormous (and enormously strong) dog living a blissful life on a California ranch, gets dog-napped and sold into an Alaskan sled dog team. From there he eventually finds his way to John Thornton (Ford), the two bond and set out on an adventure into the backcountry. All the while, Buck continually hears nature beckoning to the wild dog inside him. Will he answer that call?

This movie changes an awful lot from the original novel, and not all of it works. For example, the movie expands the conflict between Thornton and Hal (Dan Stevens) that’s totally Hollywood in the worst way possible. The ending is a little hokier than it should be, too.

Another issue is the animation of the animals, especially Buck. At times, Buck looks absolutely convincingly real. Other times, he looks just phony enough for you to notice and bug you. The performance is pretty great, with Buck being more expressive than a lot of action movie stars. His interaction with the flesh and blood actors in the film is pretty convincing. He just looks a little short of completely photoreal in some scenes.

Fortunately, there’s more than enough here to make “Call” a worthwhile watch. Ford is worth seeing, at his curmudgeonly best. Watching his friendship with Buck blossom is as heartwarming as it is mainly because Ford makes John’s emotional convincing and relatable. Anyone who’s met someone who grew on them and ended up being great friends can relate to Ford here.

On top of that, the movie’s scenery is gorgeous and cinematographer Janusz Kaminski shot the film in a way the captures the beauty of the Alaskan landscape and the epic scale of the environment. John Powell’s score is moving and there are enough touches of humor so that the film doesn’t feel too dry.

“The Call of the Wild” isn’t mind-blowing or exceptional in any way, but it is a very competently-made film that’s earnest and anchored by a very solid performance from Ford. This version of the story also renders themes of self-discovery and embracing who you truly are in an emotionally satisfying way. Even if the main character is a computer-generated dog.

3 Indy Fedoras out of 5

MPAA Rating: PG

Thanks to Fat Cats in Rexburg for providing screenings for movie reviews on