26 September 2023

The Call of the Wild

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Reviewed by Victor Rebikoff.

Director: Chris Sanders, 20th Century Fox, PG 100 Minutes.

Jack London’s classic 1903 novel about the adventures of the big-hearted dog, Buck has been remade again as an enjoyable live-action drama by animation writer turned director Chris Sanders (‘The Croods’).

The opening scenes see Buck enjoying a sheltered life in California before being suddenly snatched from his friendly surroundings and sold to traders in the frosty wilds of the Canadian Yukon amidst the Alaskan Gold Rush of the 1890’s.

Not used to the freezing conditions, Buck is befriended by French couple – Perrault (Omay Sy of ‘Jurassic World) and Francoise (Cara Gee of ‘Birdland’) – who decide to make the colossal canine part of a sled dog team for their mail run along the ice-covered landscape.

On becoming top dog of the sled team, Buck’s stint with the mail run is short-lived when he is handed over to Hal (Dan Stevens of ‘Norman’), a brutal master needing sled dogs to transport gold diggers.

Hal’s mistreatment of the sled team, especially his beating of Buck, eventually has John Thornton (Harrison Ford of ‘Star Wars’) coming to his rescue, repaying an earlier favour received from the huge dog concerning a letter that Thornton wanted delivered.

After recuperating in Thornton’s home, Buck forms a close bond with him – unaware of the hostility still harboured by Hal in losing his dog – with Buck later helping Thornton against a revenge-seeking Hal in his attempt to kill both of them.

With the animosity between both men over, Buck has finally become his own master – embracing his inherent primeval instincts that will enable him to survive in the wild as he assumes the leadership of the nearby wolf pack.

Due to a compelling storyline – narrated from a dog’s perspective – Sanders’ remake is an enjoyable and entertaining experience revealing the personal relationship between man and dog having to overcome many obstacles before responding to the call of the wild.

Apart from the stunning scenery of the frozen landscapes and the picturesque settings, there is the perfectly-pitched performance of Ford in a thrilling action-filled adventure which is outshone occasionally by a delightful CGI dog called Buck.

Vic’s Verdict: 3 ½ Stars

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