I am one of those people that finds the literary catalogue of Jack London to be monotonous dreck that one reads when they want to feel what death is like. So, it was by sheer lack of content in the movie theaters that I dragged myself to watch Call of the Wild last week. While the screen writers were smart enough to take liberties with the yawn-inducing source material, the reinvigorated plot was unfortunately completely overshadowed by the unfinished CGI that makes you wonder if you are watching a movie or a video game cutscene from 2007.
Call of the Wild is a reimagining of the classic novel of the same name that centers around a dog named Buck and his journey of being domesticated to becoming a wild animal. Along his journey, in this incarnation, Buck finds himself dognapped and shipped across the country to be sold as a sled dog in the Yukon and moves from owner to owner losing a part of his “civilized” nature each step on the journey.
I have to say, the changes and modernizing make the story decent enough to keep your interest held. Shockingly, the plot of this film is portrayed in an entertaining way. The story is shown through Buck’s journey, but it is Harrison Ford’s John Thornton that makes the story gel. Harrison rarely doesn’t bring it, and he definitely makes Call of the Wild much more enjoyable. That said, every other human character comes off as extremely corny—particularly Dan Stevens.
Along with the corny acting, the main plague to this movie is the CGI. Watching the trailers, it was pretty obvious that the visual effects would be rough—especially considering that there were no real animals used in the movie, they are all CG. While all the sets and wide scenery shots are gorgeous, the CG creatures and the compositing around them look like they were ripped out of a video game. It is so distracting that I began questioning if the original plan was to actually release it for Disney+ but they realized that they were releasing another sled dog movie only a few weeks before (Togo, 2020). Some scenes were so outside the realm of verisimilitude, that my eyes started to ache trying to adjust to the unfinished image.
Harrison Ford and the reworked plot do save this movie from being unwatchable, but if you were to ask me which CGI animal-led movie to go see this weekend I am going to recommend Sonic the Hedgehog. In the grand scheme of things, if Disney had decided to not overspend on this film and put it on Disney+ instead, I would have no qualms with the quality, but in today’s movie market, having a film look this does not justify to me the price tag of going to the movies. If you like the novel or other film adaptations of it and think that you can look past the CGI, you will walk out enjoying yourself. I cannot say the same.
Call of the Wild is rated PG for some violence, peril, thematic elements and mild language.
Side Note: Call of the Wild is still better than Gretel and Hansel—a movie so bad that I decided to not even bother reviewing because thinking about it gave me physical pain.