‘Call Of The Wild’ Movie Review Roundup: Harrison Ford Earns Praise, Despite CGI Dog Buck
The new adaptation of the classic novel Call of the Wild released in theaters on February 21. The new movie stars Harrison Ford as John Thornton, a Yukon gold miner in the 1890’s. Thornton meets Buck, a St. Bernard who has been kidnapped from his family. Together, they must survive the wilderness and learn to appreciate one another. In this new version of the story, Buck the dog is not played by a real dog, but instead is a CGI creation. Many of those who have reviewed the film are put off by Buck’s special effects, noting that the dog looks very fake. However, many are praising Ford, and some are even calling his role one of his best performances.
“Much as I wish the filmmakers had put more trust in the organic heartbeat of their material, “The Call of the Wild” gets better as it goes along… And the way Harrison Ford plays it, it really is. Ford acts with pure soul here (he also narrates the film with his lovely storybook growl); it’s a minimalist performance, mostly very reactive, but the saintly gruffness of Ford’s thick-gray-bearded, sad-eyed presence helps to nudge Buck to life as a character. “The Call of the Wild” turns into a movie about a difficult but devoted dog and the master who’s a bit of a lonely old mutt himself. For all the wholesome cheesiness of much of the film, you’d have to have a pretty hard heart not to be touched by it.
– Owen Gleiberman, Variety
“In longish gray hair and beard and tattered woolen sweaters that suit him wonderfully, Ford exhibits so much feeling here that he transports us back to his work in earlier films like “Witness” and “The Fugitive,” back to when you could make a case for him as a great actor and not just a movie star, or Chewie’s cranky companion. Ford seems so real, a quality otherwise hard to find in this PG-rated live-action and animation hybrid… Here, Buck is a mostly digital creation that only sometimes resembles a real dog”
– Carla Meyer, San Francisco Chronicle
“First published in 1903, it remains ferally fast and lithe, the teeth of the prose barely blunted by the years… Little of that struggle persists in the current film, which softens everything it touches. Mortal peril gives way to slapstick; atavistic fears are reduced to a quizzical cock of the head; and, as for Buck, he’s brave, he’s loyal, and he’s about as forbidding as Scooby-Doo.”
– Anthony Lane, The New Yorker
Call of the Wild is rated PG for some violence, peril, thematic elements and mild language.