Cast: Harrison Ford, Omar Sy, Dan Stevens, Karen Gillan
Director: Chris Sanders
If Call of the Wild is anything, it’s absolute proof that Harrison Ford should stick to doing franchise movies. This is his first original movie in five years, and while the quality isn’t that bad, the box office results sure are. I guess he’s not as big of a box office draw as he used to be, or maybe the movie didn’t have a wide sense of appeal to it, but this isn’t exactly the highlight of Ford’s career. While it’s a pretty standard adventure movie in its own right, Call of the Wild’s aggravating CGI lead prevents it from being the hit that 20th Century Studios thought it would be.
The film follows Buck, a dog living a cushy, comfortable life in California during the gold rush. When Buck is kidnapped and shipped up to Alaska, he eventually begins to work in various labor roles with other humans and dogs. While this journey has its ups and downs, Bush has to come to terms with his true self and embrace his real nature over the course of 100 minutes. Let’s just dive into the biggest issue of the movie; that CGI dog looks horrible. Considering Sanders’ background in animation, I’m surprised he would let something like this be in a movie he directed. The dog looks so out-of-place in the world and even in an environment where almost everything is green-screened, the central character of the movie is the one that ends up looking the worst. Outside of that though, I can’t really fault the movie for anything in particular. It’s a very standard, cookie-cutter movie that you can see coming a mile away and isn’t exactly one that will change your perception of life as a whole. Considering how well-documented and well-received the source material is, I’m surprised by both the direction of the movie as well as the lack of interest in it. Maybe this is because it’s been adapted so many times that we don’t need another addition, but you’d think someone would want to go out and see it. That being said, you can tell this was going to be a very tame movie by the general premise and even though I’ve never read the book, my understanding is it had some very dark moments that aren’t present here. Sure there’s still a decent level of tension and excitement to keep the movie going, but I can’t help but feel like there was a better way to frame this movie than what we got. I guess Ford can only carry a movie on his shoulders for so long before something substantial comes along to help it out, and while it’s no Blade Runner 2049, it’s not a terrible movie for Ford to be a part of. For a safe February movie, it’s far from the first thing to watch and I think Call of the Wild is the type of movie that could see a resurgence when more people see it on streaming services.
Overall, there’s nothing particular wrong with Call of the Wild, but it never challenges the status quo and doesn’t try to be anything special. The potential was there for something unique and interesting, but Sanders and his team played it safe and didn’t try to shoot for the moon. As an enjoyable family movie, Call of the Wild has something for everyone, but I have a hard time believing it will be anyone’s favorite movie. Call of the Wild is strong enough to avoid being reviled, but it’s tough to argue that this movie is worth the price of admission.
Overall Score: 6/10