Hey 3.5 readers.
This won’t be so much of a review as an opinion piece.
Having seen the ads for Call of the Wild earlier this year, I read Jack London’s classic novel of the same name. If you haven’t, you should. It’s only like 60 pages, but he covers a lot of ground in a short amount of time.
For the uninitiated, it’s the story of Buck, a pampered dog who lives a life of luxury as a pet on a rich judge’s California estate. His carefree life is uprooted when a dirtbag swipes the pooch and sells him into doggy servitude, sending him up north where he ends up on the dog sled team of a pair of French Canadian mail carriers.
From there, he’s passed from one owner to the next, beaten and abused, forced to fight for his life and so on.
Essentially, it’s a story about learning to adapt and persevere when life throws a monkey wrench into the machinery of your plans.
The movie is good, though it’s a Disney product full of schmaltz. It has to be to cater to its primary audience of kids. While in the book, Buck goes from being weak and timid to becoming a murderous, killer alpha dog, whereas in the film Buck grows in spirit and strength by doing good deeds and saving others along the way. Further, I’ll admit the book has plenty of politically incorrect moments (it was written in early 1900s after all) that understandably had to be cut out in the movie version.
Anyway, see the movie, but also read the book and just try to ignore the non-PCness and learn the various lessons. Don’t crumble when life throws you a curve ball. When you learn something new, you’ll fail and it will hurt but stick with it and you’ll get better (how Buck sucks at first as a sled dog but keeps at it and becomes a great sled dog, for example.)
Also, lessons about leadership, from Buck’s early masters who get his obedience through club beatings, to John Thornton, who is just such a good man that he inspires Buck to blind loyalty.
Is this movie an award winner? Not really. It will probably come and go without a lot of fanfare.
However, I think Harrison Ford should be considered for a Best Actor award for this one. He was in some great films in the 70s and 80s, not just nerd faves like Star Wars and Indiana Jones, but thrillers and dramas as well.
Then in the late 90s, early 2000s he, no offense because it happens to all of us, but he got old and seemed in many of his roles like he’d rather not be there, like he was phoning it in. Ironically, I know that’s part of his personality and charm, that he comes across as though he could take or leave fame.
Long story short, he shines in this role and is full of emotion. As a depressed old man who moves to the Yukon to get away from humanity only to find his humanity again with the help of Buck.
Overall, Ford looks like he enjoys what he’s doing in this movie and that he had a good time making it.
At 77, I doubt he will get a chance at many more plump, juicy roles, so I think a case could be mean that he deserves it for this one, if not for the performance but to recognize his body of work.
Hopefully someone in the Academy is one of my 3.5 readers and will make this happen.
I loved this book (and a lot of Jack London) as a kid. Your review makes me want to see the movie, but I’m on the fence because of the CG dog. If I can get past that, I’m in.
It’s funny how some things can work in a book but not translate to the screen (at least today’s screen.)
In the book, Buck becomes stronger the more he becomes a killer dog whereas in the movie they obviously had to change that so his strength grows the nicer he is to the other dogs.