Wednesday, February 26, 2020


Rated: PG

STARS: Harrison Ford, Dan Stevens, Omar Sy, Cara Gee
DIRECTOR: Chris Sanders
GENRE: Action/Adventure

Who Framed Roger Rabbit really started all of this silliness. Real people interacting with cartoon characters. (Real people--not actors! Well, they are actors. Let's not go there). Now it's gotten way, way out of hand. In The Call Of The Wild, the latest adaptation of the classic Jack London novel, the CGI technology has been perfected to a state of "less obvious," but only a little kid might not catch on (and this is definitely a kid movie).

Roger Rabbit was an animated anthropomorphic character. Buck, our canine hero in The Call Of The Wild, is a CGI (computer generated imagery) anthropomorphic character--meaning he's an animal that possesses human characteristics, like critical thinking and facial expressions that indicate he understands everything people are saying to him. 
All the other animals in the film--the dogs, the bears and the birds (minus Clifton Clowers) are CGI creations as well. The technology has come a long way, and you can almost be lulled into believing Buck is real. Until he starts doing a lot of unreal shit.  

Buck starts out having a cushy life with a family in California. He is then dognapped and shipped off to the wilds of the Yukon, where the gold rush of the 1890s has a lot of folks all stirred up. Buck becomes part of a sled dog team for a couple (Omar Sy and Cara Gee) who deliver the mail Pony Express style over the frozen tundra. When the mail route is discontinued, Buck falls into the hands of a mean a cruel owner named Hal ( Dan Stevens). Hal will be confronted by John Thornton, Harrison Ford's character who finally shows up onscreen better late than never. Thornton is kindly but he's a lush, still grieving for his dead son.

Buck and Thornton set off together to live in a cabin in the woods, where more adventure awaits. Buck knows that John's drinking isn't good for him, so he  hides the man's bottle of hooch in the snow. Yeah, I know. It gets more woo-woo from there.

The Call Of The Wild was the very first novel I read as a kid, back when my armpits (and most of the rest of me) were still hairless. It still has a special place in my heart. This movie...not so much. It's a great sappy family film, but I'm not a family guy. And I don't dig the idea of ascribing human traits to noble animals. 

It makes them less noble.

Grade:  C


Collaborators have to learn to compromise and Call Of The Wild was my 'cinematic sacrifice' to Tim who had some boyhood need to see this flick. After endless minutes of animated previews geared strictly for family viewing, I knew I was in for an updated version of Fantasia meets Lassie. So I sat back and simply allowed myself to go with the flow....

I was disillusioned when I got home afterwards and asked my cat to help me unload the groceries. Buck would've done it in a hot tick. Alas, Fattycat could care less. Still, I have to applaud the minions of animatic artists who created these almost-alive animals. When bad things were happening to Buck, I gasped and groaned and cheered him on. It brought me back to when I saw Bambi as a kid. That scene where the deer was killed? I didn't get over that for years. (I still haven't.)

So even though all the animals in Call Of The Wild were computer generated, I was still able to get emotionally involved. And looking around at the audience—all seniors, by the way—I could tell they were emotionally caught up in the story too. There was even some clapping at the end.

Harrison Ford was....well, Harrison Ford. Shaggier, perhaps. But mostly strong and silent. I'm not sorry I saw this movie but it's not for everybody. (I'm just glad Tim has to reciprocate now by seeing The Way Back!)

Grade: B