At 77 years old, Harrison Ford is still setting a high standard for seniors with his recent comeback in two of the latest “Star Wars” films and his upcoming shoot for the 5th Indiana Jones movie this summer. This weekend, he delivers a fun, feisty and occasionally touching performance in a new film based on the classic Jack London novel “Call of the Wild,” bringing old-fashioned movie-star charm to a movie that also features cutting-edge CGI special effects to bring its main dog Buddy and numerous other creatures to life.
I haven’t read “Call” in about 35 years, so I can’t offer in-depth judgment on how it compares with the book. However, my research shows that the filmmakers tamed the book’s scarier/rougher patches down to a PG rating. The result is a movie that drew an impressively eclectic age range to an opening night screening in Little Rock, Arkansas: dads bringing their sons, older ladies swooning for Ford and senior couples appreciating a solidly made film that they wouldn’t have to worry about taking offense. On all levels, “Call” delivers a great time at the movies that’s also good for you.
“Call” starts with Buddy wreaking comical havoc, destroying a fancy dinner at its wealthy owner’s house before being sold in the dead of night to a nasty dog trader named Hal (Dan Stevens). Buddy endures largely implied abuse from a string of men before breaking free and encountering a kind old loner named John (Harrison Ford).
After enduring hardships as part of a pack of dogs dragging the US mail through the deepest reaches of the Yukon, Buddy finds and is taken in by John, and the two embark on their own far-flung adventure. Canoeing down rapids, dodging and then learning to co-exist with wolves, and evading Hal while learning to handle the frigid conditions around them, “Call” has enough narrative spunk and gorgeous locations to keep viewers entertained, even though it could have used some more thrills along the way to achieve epic status.
Director Chris Sanders has previously made his mark in hit animated films such as “Lilo & Stitch,” “How to Train Your Dragon” and “The Croods,” and provides sure-handed guidance throughout “Call” as he blends Ford and other actors seamlessly in with the CGI animals. Buddy seems vibrantly real and alive throughout much of the movie, with only a few obvious moments where one can tell it’s an effect – – and those fly by so fast, it doesn’t detract from a pretty solid movie.
Writer Michael Green has had a hand in adapting lots of popular books and sci-fi/fantasy projects for the screen, including story credits ranging from some of the latest “Alien” movies to the “X-Men” offshoot “Logan,” and keeps things moving here. The lush forests of British Columbia provide stunning backdrops throughout.
At a time when more and more major releases are simply sequels and superhero movies, it’s refreshing to see films like “Call” still getting made and doing well at the box office. Ford is a national treasure and it’s nice to see him atop a predicted-#1 movie outside of the Star Wars and Indiana Jones series, so I highly recommend that those wanting a good-natured, well-made and thoughtful time at the movies heed the call to the theater.