If you’ve seen your fair share of lost dog films, you know that all of them use real, trained dogs to tell their story, and there are usually several dogs employed—some that do stunts and others that just know how to emote. The Call of the Wild is the first to not only use CG dogs but hell, how about CG backgrounds. I mention all this because I’m just a little taken aback by everything.
Let’s talk about Buck. I try not to read anything about films before I see them. I had no idea going in Buck would be computer-generated. From the start, you know this is not a real dog and that there is this disconnect, particularly because filmmakers are trying to pass him off as a real dog. Buck doesn’t talk, nor does he try to be human, like many talking animal films (see Doolittle). I’ve had many dogs in my life, and you know how dogs act and Buck is just a little too expressive with human emotions to feel authentic. Eventually, I got used to it. If you don’t, you’re in for a very long 100 minutes.
I appreciated why technology had to be employed to tell this story, but it walks that line of being overly CG. My other CG issue is the film’s backgrounds and landscapes. There’s nothing like the real thing, and you get a little bit of the real thing. Most of the film is made up, but looked good—fake good—but good nonetheless. The entire movie feels more like painted art than realistic photographs.
“…just a little too expressive with human emotions to feel authentic.”
I suppose The Call of the Wild is the cinema in the future. Fantastical worlds made to look real. Are we ready now for our movies to be void of anything real? I can’t wait for the next James Dean movie. The Call of the Wild looks good, but have we given up on real?
So let’s set aside the technology quibbles. The Call of the Wild is actually a good story and ultimately works as a movie. What we have is a story about a dog with an actual character arc. Buck is on this journey to discover who he is with the help of the people along the way.
Though I loved the segment with Omar Sy and Cara Gee. They make a beautiful couple as they bond with Buck. Harrison Ford, as John is also fantastic. It’s great to see Ford smile throughout a big chunk of the film—almost as if he’s having a good time. It’s a sweet, heartfelt story and I connected with it to the end. I know I’m going to be in the minority about this, but though it took a long time to accept the technology of the film (better than Cats). To me, the film is a winner in the end…barely. Enough to give it a recommendation.
"…a sweet, heartfelt story..."