The Call of the Wild: Buck Will Steal Your Heart

John Thornton (Harrison Ford) and Buck in The Call of the Wild. Courtesy of Twentieth Century Studios.

Buck will steal your heart as Jack London’s 1903 short novel, The Call of the Wild, comes to the big screen this weekend.

Where prior adaptations have been from the human POV, this is very much Buck’s film.  The St. Bernard/Farm Collie mix, digitally created for the film by way of a St. Bernard/Shepherd mix named Buckley, steals the show regardless of the fact that he’s CGI.  This film takes us on his journey and yes, it’s beautiful.  It’s a journey that goes onto include several human characters that we get to know on screen.

It’s certainly not surprising that the film is beautifully shot.  After all, two-time Oscar winning cinematographer Janusz Kaminski is behind the camera.  Phedon Papamichael handles additional photography duties.  This likely isn’t a surprise given that James Mangold is one of the film’s producers.

There’s a moment where Harrison Ford’s John Thornton tells Buck to watch himself very early in the film.  For some reason or another, it just led to a nostalgic flashback to Star Wars.  Listen, Ford still has it even if there’s not much stunt work required of the actor.  Granted, most of the acting he does in the film is opposite Buck.  Regardless, Harrison Ford is perfect for the role.

Right off the bat, it was so weird to see the new Twentieth Century Studios logo ahead of the film.  If you think it’s weird seeing the Searchlight logo sans Fox ahead of Downhill, it’s going to be odd when you sit down for The Call of the Wild!  It’s certainly going to take some adjusting to the new studio logo in this ever-changing era of going to the movies.  However, there is a sense of irony though.  The 1935 was the final film under the Twentieth Century Pictures banner before merging with Fox.

Similarly, I do feel like this film hearkens back to a different era.  If this film is any indication, Twentieth Century Studios is going to fill the hole left by Touchstone Pictures.  The mid-budget adult drama (okay so the CGI drove up the budget) may not be a thing of the past but I felt like I was watching a Disney movie through and through when I saw this film.

I must confess that I never read the classic Jack London story.  As a result, I can’t compare this film to the book as far as what’s different.  This is the big thing to do when it comes to books being made into movies.  Obviously, this is a film geared towards families so it’s only natural that they make changes in order to appeal to young children.  I won’t lie in that there’s a few parts one might consider violent and downright abusive to animals.  The fact that it’s likely CGI footage doesn’t make this any easier to watch.

With a dog like Buck leading the way, The Call of the Wild should appeal to all families.

DIRECTOR:  Chris Sanders
SCREENWRITER:  Michael Green
CAST:  Harrison Ford, Omar Sy, Dan Stevens, Karen Gillan, Bradley Whitford, Cara Gee, Michael Horse, Jean Louisa Kelly, Colin Woodell, Adam Fergus, and Abraham Benrubi

Twentieth Century Studios opens The Call of the Wild in theaters on February 21, 2020. Grade: 4/5

Danielle Solzman

Danielle Solzman is native of Louisville, KY, and holds a BA in Public Relations from Northern Kentucky University and a MA in Media Communications from Webster University. She roots for her beloved Kentucky Wildcats, St. Louis Cardinals, Indianapolis Colts, and Boston Celtics. Living less than a mile away from Wrigley Field in Chicago, she is an active reader (sports/entertainment/history/biographies/select fiction) and involved with the Chicago improv scene. She also sees many movies and reviews them. She has previously written for Redbird Rants, Wildcat Blue Nation, and Hidden Remote/Flicksided. From April 2016 through May 2017, her film reviews can be found on Creators.