Thursday, March 12, 2020

The Call of the Wild (2020)


I think whoever put together the trailers for Call of the Wild deserves some credit.  They did the best they could with what they had.  It looked like they were told to make it look like an exciting movie, but couldn’t quite pull it off.  The same goes for the movie.  There are parts of it that have some excitement and drama, but the movie doesn’t quite pull it off.

The narrative follows Buck, the large St. Bernard–Scotch Collie you may have seen in said trailer.  He starts the movie living in the mansion of Judge Miller in California.  Buck is abducted and sold to a team delivering mail.

The team of dogs is eventually sold to another group, led by a man named Hal.  Hal knows that there’s gold out there and intends to use the dogs to find it.  The dogs will have no part of it, though, as Hal would lead them down a dangerous path.

Buck finally ends up with John Thornton.  The two set off to find gold, sort of like Hal, except they happen to find it.  Both Buck and John come to terms with their respective pasts.  That might mean finding something in Buck’s case or letting go of something in John’s case.

You’d think with a story like this, there would be some excitement.  There was, but what few scenes the movie had were few and far between.  It was mostly pretty boring.

Part of the problem for me was that there was no real permanent antagonist.  When Buck is abducted, he’s abused.  Buck manages to escape that and is cared for by the people delivering mail.  Yet, Buck has an alpha dog to contend with.  We know this will be resolved in short order.

Instead of one main person to hate, Buck is dealt some obstacles to overcome.  It gets to the point where we don’t even get to see Buck rebel against Hal.  Hal leaves with the team of dogs only to tell John about it later in the movie.

I suppose the case could be made that the antagonist is Buck’s insecurity.  Even with that, there doesn’t seem to be a defining scene where Buck confronts that.  There’s no point where we can say that Buck is now confident.

And yes, Buck did look just a little fake.  When he’s running or laying down, he looks real enough.  He’s modeled on a real dog.  My problem is with the facial expressions.  They look a little too anthropomorphic.  They definitely don’t look like they belong on a dog.

This isn’t a great film.  I would debate it being a good film.  It’s notable only for the CGI, which was not perfect.  I think there’s a strong case to be made here for maybe reading the book, instead.


 

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