The Call of the Wild

Posted on February 21, 2020 at 5:30 pm

B-
Lowest Recommended Age: 4th - 6th Grade
MPAA Rating: Rated PG for some violence, peril, thematic elements and mild language
Profanity: Some mild language
Alcohol/ Drugs: Drinking and drunkenness
Violence/ Scariness: Peril and violence, human and animal characters injured and killed, animal abuse, guns
Diversity Issues: Diverse characters
Date Released to Theaters: February 22, 2020

Copyright Twentieth Century 2020
My review of “Call of the Wild” is on rogerebert.com. An excerpt:

Harrison Ford made me believe he was talking to Greedo and Jabba the Hutt in the early “Star Wars” films and those characters were as low-tech as Gumby and Pokey compared to the technology used to create Ford’s canine co-star in “The Call of the Wild.” And yet, I never bought it. Instead of getting caught up in the story, I kept wondering how they achieved the effects, like the interactions between the CGI dog with the real-life people and props around him. A lot of work clearly went into scanning a dog from every angle, and getting the muscles, fur, weight, and shape to look real. But the dog still seems synthetic compared to the animals in movies like “A Dog’s Purpose” and Disney’s own annual nature films (even compared to fully animated characters in the original “101 Dalmatians” and “Lady and the Tramp”). And so does the story.

The problem is less the technology, which is very impressive, than it is the uneven storyline, which zigzags from slapstick to poignance to action. The Alaskan and Canadian scenery is spectacular, the production design is exceptional, and Ford brings heart and dignity to his role, including the narration throughout the film. But the movie is uneven in tone and in its sense of its audience—it is too sad and violent for young children and too superficial for older audiences. The many-times-filmed story has here been sanitized a bit for modern audiences (less racism, for example), but it is rougher than the typical PG film, including animal abuse, and sad deaths of both canines and humans.

Parents should know that this film includes peril and violence affecting animals and humans, sad deaths of dogs and people, guns, animals beaten with clubs, and some mild language.

Family discussion: What did Buck learn from his first experience pulling a sled? From his rescues? From the wolves?

If you like this, try: “A Dog’s Purpose” and “A Dog’s Way Home”

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