There have been a few movie adaptations of Jack London’s classic story of a dog and his adventures – including versions starring Charlton Heston (1972), Rutger Hauer (1997) and Clark Gable (1935) – but this 2020 action drama is the first to feature a CGI pooch rather than a real animal in the lead role.
Of course, with this being made by Disney, rest assured the dog in question looks reasonably realistic, although it does take a while to get used to his facial expressions. Once you do, you can settle back and enjoy an old fashioned sentimental story that benefits from a grizzly Harrison Ford as one of the canine’s human co-stars.
While the movie never quite decides whether it wants to be a family animal movie in the style of classics like The Incredible Journey and Old Yeller, or a modern computer-animated adventure like the recent live action/CGI remakes of The Jungle Book and The Lion King, the story itself remains reasonably faithful to the spirit of the 1903 novel on which it is based.
Buck is a huge St Bernard/Scotch Collie mix in the 1890s who lives happily crashing about in a family home in California until he is kidnapped and sold into service as a sled dog. He works in Alaska during the Gold Rush before crossing paths with grief-stricken old man John Thornton (Ford) and eventually the two pair up for their own adventures.
There are all the animal-in-the-wilderness scenes we’ve come to expect, from a rescue from a frozen lake sequence to an avalanche escape and a river rapid ride, and all are handled well. While adults may not be on the edge of their seats – especially knowing that the dog in peril isn’t real – kids should be thrilled by Buck’s stories and everyone will be charmed by Ford’s and Omar Sy’s (as kindly mail carrier Perrault) warm performances and Ford’s enjoyable narration of Buck’s incredible story.
Is The Call Of The Wild suitable for kids? Here are our parents’ notes...
Buck the dog is often in peril, which may upset very young and sensitive viewers.
Very young viewers may be scared by the black dog that Buck sometimes sees in the distance.
There is a scene in which Buck fights another dog that could disturb younger viewers (under 10s), and Buck is also threatened (he is beaten but we only see this in shadow).
SPOILER ALERT – the following contains major plot spoilers!
There is a very sad death at the end of the film that will upset sensitive viewers.
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