Adapted from the classic 1903 novel by Jack London, The Call of the Wild is about the life of a stable and happy dog called Buck, whose domestic life ends when he is uprooted from his home in California and lands in the frozen wilderness of the Yukon region in Alaska. Buck then goes on to experience the adventure of a lifetime and finds his true calling; making friends along the way with John Thornton (Harrison Ford) – a Yukon local with a love of dogs.
Director Chris Sanders (Lilo and Stitch and DreamWorks’ Dragons series) diverts away from the darker themes of the novel, and aims the film toward younger kids and families. This is largely achieved by using CGI for all the animals in the film, which has been done successfully in recent re-make films such as The Jungle Book and The Lion King. However, the overuse of CGI in The Call of the Wild is unfortunately its weak point.
When you compare the film to Togo, which had a similar storyline and similar need for the use of multiple dogs, Togo used real dogs and achieved incredible success, reaching audiences on a much deeper and more ‘real’ level.
Harrison Ford is one of the saving graces of the film. His acting, along with the great music and breathtaking scenic shots make for a great family man-and-dog adventure film. The directing is also done well by Chris Sanders, but the decision to use all CGI repeatedly comes back to haunt the film – distracting and disconnecting the audience from the story. If you can get past this, the film will not disappoint.