Toothless: The Call of the Wild is too Tame for its Own Good
Movie watered down by CGI and less than thrilling scenes
2 stars out of 5
Jack London's 1903 novel The Call of the Wild is a bloody and brutal tale full of danger, peril, death, and ultimately redemption. It is a classic adventure story and a personal favorite of mine. That's why it saddens me to see the Walt Disney Company turn the story into a safe, cheerful cartoon. I understand that they were aiming for a younger audience with this film, but that doesn't mean they had to so thoroughly water down the book's themes. It's possible for kids to enjoy a little danger as well.
This is the story of Buck, a pampered house dog who is abducted and taken to the Yukon. There, he has a series of adventures as a sled dog for a mail carrier (Omar Sy), gets sold to some careless masters, befriends a grizzled old frontiersman (Harrison Ford), and ultimately discovers the long-buried spirit of his wild ancestors.
The story of a spoiled, domesticated animal finding his true nature through a series of hardships is cheapened thanks to the dog being entirely CGI. Like the awful live-action Lion King remake and the horrifying monstrosity that was Cats, the mix of real environments with animation is jarring. Buck's overly expressive face takes us further down the Uncanny Valley and the clean visuals make the harsh, unforgiving Yukon feel like a fun vacation. There are some exciting scenes and Sy and Ford have some genuinely heartfelt moments with Buck, but the tone is so whimsical that it feels like someone turned To Build a Fire into a grade school musical.
— Forest Taylor
Directed by: Chris Sanders // Written by: Michael Green, based on the novel by Jack London // Starring: Harrison Ford, Dan Stevens, Omar Sy, Cara Gee, Colin Woodell, Karen Gillan, Jean Louisa Kelly, Terry Notary, and Michael Horse // 100 minutes // Rated PG