Anthropomorphism is defined as the attribution of human characteristics or behavior to a god, animal, or object. The Call of the Wild suffers from the over-reliance upon an actor and stunt coordinator stand-in for the CGI created Buck. Even the beautiful scenes of Alaska are CGI. Exactly how did Twentieth Century Fox, now owned by Disney, think they were going to recover a $125 million budget? The film is only projected to make $15-20 million this week domestically. Further, there are significant deviations from the book. This is at least the ninth adaptation of Jack London’s novel, pleasant enough but just a tad disappointing. I give The Call of the Wild 3.5 Gavels and it receives a 66% Rotten Tomatoes rating with no Audience score as yet.
Buck is a spoiled California St. Bernard/Scotch Collie dognapped to Skagway during the Alaskan Gold Rush. Highly sought after for his size and strength, Buck must learn to adapt to the cold, other dogs, and the dog sled. He finds out quickly that some humans are vicious, and some are kind. And, Buck learns that only one can be the Alpha dog.
John Thornton, acted by Harrison Ford, is one of the humans kind to Buck. Of course, the gruff, loner type comes natural to Ford. Omar Cy and Cara Gee, as Perrault and Francoise, make a great team of mail deliverers from Skagway to Dawson. Dan Stevens is the evil Hal, certain that Thornton only wants to keep a gold claim to himself. Karen Gillan and Bradley Whitford have very small parts. Blink and you will miss them.
Given the extensive use of CGI, The Call of the Wild is an impressive piece of film. Here, though, we have too much of a good thing. The filmmaking should not overpower a great story. Joe Morgenstern of The Wall Street Journal writes “Buck is so precocious, such a relentlessly clever construction, that he leaves nothing to our imagination.” We want to imagine what our pets are thinking. No guessing here as one expects Buck to converse with Thornton. Besides all my complaints, there is no doubt your kids will love The Call of the Wild (rated PG -some violence). It’s February and it’s a dog story of epic proportions with decent music. What’s not to like? Next time, for me, use real dogs!