Monday, April 20, 2020

Movie with Abe: The Call of the Wild

The Call of the Wild
Directed by Chris Sanders
Released February 21, 2020

The protagonists of most films are, typically, human. If the main character is an animal, the movie is usually animated, and allows them to speak in a way that they can be understood by an audience. Crafting a serious story around an animal that doesn’t talk is an arduous task, though films like “War Horse” have done it in the past, usually showcasing impressive technical effects in the creation of a lifelike star. Their life and journey have to be appealing, and cheering for their survival and success must motivate anyone watching to connect with their story.

Buck is a boisterous St. Bernard-Scott Collie living a pleasant life in Northern California in the late 1890s. When he is put outside at night by his owner (Bradley Whitford) as punishment for eating through a carefully prepared buffet, he is stolen and shipped to Alaska, enduring abusive owners until he joins a sled dog team for a Canadian mailman (Omar Sy) where he stands up to the vicious lead dog, Spitz, to exert his dominance. When the mail route is terminated, Buck and his team are purchased by an equally heartless and incompetent prospector (Dan Stevens). Along the way, Buck continually crosses paths with the kindly John Thornton (Harrison Ford), a lonely man who sees Buck for the hard-working and caring dog he is.

This is far from the first cinematic adaptation of Jack London’s classic 1903 novel. It is the first in a while, and one that makes great use of CGI technology to allow motion capture actor Terry Notary to portray the endearing dog. While not all audiences will rave about the computer-animated animals, they serve their purpose, acting as fully functional characters whose relationships are almost more central to the narrative than any of the people who are actually able to speak. It’s a movie that dog lovers will surely enjoy, while those seeking a family-friendly adventure should also find it perfectly adequate.

Buck is the true star of this film, but a handful of well-known human actors show up throughout to provide recognizable faces. Stevens, who initially became famous for playing the impossibly nice and virtuous Matthew on “Downton Abbey,” is now embracing his villainous, often cartoonish side that he honed on “Legion.” Ford, who has been acting for more than half a century, is right at home in the role of a man who has mostly resigned himself to being alone, only to find the best form of companionship in Buck. This film shouldn’t be approached as an overly resounding, emphatic tale, but instead a revitalizing exploration of nature and the allure of the great outdoors that can be enjoyed by the whole family.


No comments: