Movie Review: The Call of the Wild
An awfully dated CGI dog and an awfully dated Harrison Ford collaborate in The Call of the Wild, the story of Buck and John Thornton (Ford) and the bond they share. Or at least that’s what I had expected from this newly released feel-good flick directed by Chris Sanders. Harmless fluff for younger audiences, already I know that this film doesn’t cater to me. But perhaps it can connect to the heart beyond the cold, icy walls I’ve created for myself. A heart-warming film about a dog just doing various things couldn’t be at all taxing on the mind. It could, however, be a charmless husk of a movie, which is exactly what The Call of the Wild turns out to be.
It’s a wafer-thin story about man’s best friend. Most scenes go no deeper than providing a dog and declaring it cute. Following the journey of Buck is a monotonous experience. He goes from California to the wild, snowy lands of Yukon, right around the time of the Gold Rush. All of this happens in the background, and it makes no real difference to a story built upon a foundation of happenstance and coincidence. We meet our supporting protagonists almost at random, with little rhyme or reason connecting them together. Villains performed as if they were made for a pantomime, heroes that have all the depth of a puddle, because their entire character arc is solely that they are a good person, and continue to be just that without any real change.
Some moments provide shallow or clumsy symbolism for the journey of Buck, a black wolf here or the implementation of human characters there. It never comes together in any way that can be considered beyond cliché. It feels very much like a Disney movie, and although their terrifying logo isn’t anywhere in sight, the pangs of similarities make The Call of the Wild feel like complete shlock. Not a second on screen that would be visibly entertaining or unique, nor is there anything on the whole that’s worth the time needed to engage with.
Honestly, it’s just amazing how bad The Call of the Wild is on the whole. Its animation is sloppy, and direction that should provide flimsy entertainment for kids is bogged down in dated stories that kids’ films have told years before this. It feels like Homeward Bound with extra steps and not as much heart. Still, it’s amazing to see that Harrison Ford would rather talk to a dog that isn’t there than ever step foot on the set of a Star Wars film again.