Director Chris Sanders’ CGI/live action film is adapted from Jack London’s 1903 classic novel of the same name.
It takes place in the 1890s and focuses on Buck, a large CGI St Bernard. Buck lives with a Judge and his family and he’s a spoiled, well loved dog. As the film opens Buck is destroying an outdoor party table and eating most of the food. He’s such an energetic pooch, a flick of his tail or a run down the hall, takes out anything in his way.
As punishment the Judge makes Buck sleep outside the house. A man looking for a quick dollar, kidnaps the dog. That night Buck is put in a crate and loaded on a train to be sold as a sled dog in far away Skagway, Alaska.
The Klondike Gold Rush is going on during this period, and Buck is bought by Perrault (Omar Sy) and Francois (Cara Gee) to be one of their sled dogs for their mail route. Buck hasn’t experienced snow before, never mind a full day of work. He was a pampered pet and now has to deal with jealousy from the other dogs and how to be part of a team.
After the invention of the telegraph ends the mail routes, Perrault sells his dog sled team to Hal (Dan Stevens). He’s a cruel and foolish man who wants to take his overloaded sled to look for gold. His plan is to force the dogs to travel over large bodies of water covered by thawing ice. Even when John Thornton (Harrison Ford, who also narrates the film) an experienced wilderness man warns him of the dangers, he refuses to listen. However, before Hal takes off, Thornton saves Buck from ultimate disaster.
When Thornton’s character appears on screen, he brings with him a needed bit of humanity He’s a kind man who left his home because of a family tragedy. He and Buck live together in a small abandoned camp that they discover near a river. Buck is a wonderful companion for Thornton. He fishes for their dinner and takes away Thornton’s whiskey bottle when he drinks too much.
The dog has many adventures in the wild. Outrunning an avalanche, fighting with another sled dog to be lead, nightly runs with a pack of wolves and adapting to a totally different kind of life. Along with those scenes however there is a number that are not appropriate for younger children. A fight between Buck and a lead German Shepherd is rough, Buck is hit several times by a man with a baton, and someone is shot and another perishes in a fire.
All of the animals are CGI and most of them are quite realistic. Call Of The Wild is a good film with wonderful scenery and exciting action. But, the best part of the story is the relationship between man and dog, how they respect, and learn and depend on one another so they can ultimately survive in the wild.