Call of the Wild (2020)

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Call of the Wild (2020)

Harrison Ford and CGI do yet another remake of this Jack London classic. A big dog's blissful domestic life is turned upside down when he is shanghai'd to do sled work in the Alaskan Yukon (during the Alaskan Gold Rush of the 1890s). While this is probably the best movie version of the story, the novel captured me deeply as a kid: something about running away and discovering yourself appealed to 9 year old me, and this makes a good family film adaptation of that story. Like most movie adaptions, the story comes across shallower than the book -- but this does come across better than most. And the CGI tries hard, but is just a bit awkward at the start... after a while you can go with it, but it's sometimes pulled me out of the story. Still, a worthy family film.

While I liked the movie, it could easily be seen on the small screen. And while it's one of the better adaptations / remakes, I still wonder why Hollywood can't seem to tell a new story any more, and everything feels like a remake, sequel or borrowed from something else. Reviewers didn't like it (it wasn't art, or anything new or groundbreaking), but audiences appreciated it more for what it is and it got at 62/91 (reviewer/viewer split) on Rotten Tomatoes. And the story did deviate from the book, which was more violent and troubling -- but the early 1900's required children to mature quicker. The simplification and reduction in violence, make it more palatable (and sellable) to the more sensitive children of today. The Harrison (Thorton) character got Hollywood'ed a bit to make the story cheesier, and less complex... but simpler to digest and more cohesive plot, with a cleaner ending.

In the end, it is just an old classic, told in a Disney-esque fashion: feeling a little like "Lassie/Benji goes to Alaska"... in parts. But it's a classic story, and even Hollywood couldn't ruin that. One could argue the simplified and modernized adaption actually tells the story better, in the same way the cliff notes of War and Peace might be more digestible than the original, to modern audiences.


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