In The Call of the Wild, Disney presents Jack London's classic, old school animal adventure with new, digital fur. Perfect for children, but slightly less so for their adult companions.
It was a good idea for Disney to go back to Jack London's 1903 bestseller. The Call of the Wild not only boasts animals, but also adventure, spectacular nature, a chapter of American history, and a moral undertone. Buck takes the lead role. He is plucked from his life of luxury in California to work as a sled dog in inhospitable parts of Alaska. In the severe conditions of the gold rush, he has to find his place between the other dogs in a competitive pack, between capricious masters with very different characters, and especially between his recent past in the lap of luxury and his natural instincts.
It wouldn't surprise us if the attachment and identification that this hulking, morally superior dog with incredible strength can inspire in younger viewers might make Buck one of the prize animals in the history of fictional anthropomorphized beasts.
In terms of content, this epic film sometimes has trouble finding the right doses in moments of tension, humour, and other more sedate sentiments. Father greybeard Harrison Ford, the kindest of dog owners, provides a laconic point of rest in the midst of the chaos, but his character John Thornton, who struggles in life and with drink, is not unforgettable.
Technically, the live-action animation effortlessly keeps up with the (dog) race. Director Chris Sanders has even set a new benchmark with the unbridled Disney dynamism with which he places his wild cast between digital salmon, beside threatening avalanches, and under the stunning northern lights.
The original London has been thoroughly cut and pasted. Every confrontation with the indigenous peoples of North America has been scrapped, but in exchange the couriers François(e) (Cara Gee) and Perrault (Omar Sy) have become people of colour. The entire field of tension is thus located between wolf and dog, nature and culture, cudgel and incisor, gold fever and detachment.