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MOVIE INFO

Director:
Chris Sanders
Cast:
Harrison Ford, Omar Sy, Cara Gee
Writing Credits:
Michael Gee

Synopsis:
A sled dog struggles for survival in the wilds of the Yukon.

Box Office:
Budget
$135 million.
Opening Weekend
$24,791,624 on 3752 screens.
Domestic Gross
$62,342,368.

MPAA:
Rated PG-13.

DISC DETAILS
Presentation:
Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1
Audio:
English DTS-HD MA 7.1
English Descriptive Audio
Spanish Dolby 5.1
French Dolby 5.1
Subtitles:
English
Spanish
French
Closed-captioned
Supplements Subtitles:
English
Spanish
French

Runtime: 100 min.
Price: $29.98
Release Date:5/12/2020


Bonus:
• “It’s All About Buck” Featurette
• “The World of The Wild” Featurette
• Trailer & Preview


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RELATED REVIEWS


The Call of the Wild [Blu-Ray] (2020)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (December 7, 2020)

Published in 1903, Jack London’s novel The Call of the Wild first received a cinematic adaptation via the silent screen in 1923. A few more takes on the property emerged over the decades, and London’s work gets another look with 2020’s The Call of the Wild.

Set in late 19th century, a young dog named Buck gets stolen from his California home. Buck finds himself transported to the Yukon and put into work as a sled dog.

When his owner loses his job, though, Buck ends up on his own until discovered by grizzled prospector John Thornton (Harrison Ford). The two bond and go through adventures as Buck attempts to find his place in the world.

Going into this theatrical version of Wild, I’d never read or seen prior incarnations. Frankly, the subject matter never much interested me, as that kind of “rugged real-life adventure” lacked much appeal to me.

Still, I try to remain open-minded. Given the fact the Jack London novel still seems popular after more than a century, I figured that perhaps it held charms that might work for me.

And perhaps Wild would succeed if told in a different manner. As depicted in this 2020 film, though, problems emerge.

In particular, Buck becomes a massive issue. When I saw trailers for Wild, it became patently obvious the movie used a CG character for our lead canine, and to call the end result unimpressive would stand as an understatement.

When I saw trailers for Wild, I figured they used temporary effects. Though the movie clearly aspired for a photo-real pooch, Buck looked more like ”live-action Scooby-Doo” than a believable dog.

Any hopes that “final product” Buck would seem more convincing abandoned ship quickly, as his goofy, cartoony look and behavior obliterated our ability to buy him as a “real dog”. This wasn’t just an instance of a trailer that featured rushed effects.

Wild cost $135 million, and no one can blame actor salaries for that sum, as Ford provides the only household name in the cast – and I doubt that he demands the “A-list” pay he got 20 years ago anyway. This means that $135 million likely went largely for visual effects.

All that money, and they couldn’t do any better than this? I don’t want to make my review all about the ghastly CG, but given the impact Cartoon Buck plays in the final product, it becomes impossible to avoid this topic.

Buck appears in almost every scene, and he never once comes across as a believable creature. While not literally as artificial and cartoony as the live-action Scooby-Doo, the two seem too close for comfort.

We know Hollywood can execute convincing CG animals, as the recent Planet of the Apes movies used non-humans as lead characters with solid results. Perhaps there’s some reason that canines can’t work as well as simians, but I can’t figure out why that would be.

I suspect part of the issue stems from the filmmakers’ choice to give Buck more than a few human-like qualities. While still mainly a “real dog”, the movie forces Buck to emote in ways an actual pooch wouldn’t.

These visuals create an off-putting clash, as Buck doesn’t seem anthropomorphized enough to work in that vein, but he also feels too fake to succeed as a real dog. The movie never settles the tone and this keeps us disengaged.

In addition, the basic quality of the animation and graphics simply don’t work. Buck feels detached from his surroundings and doesn’t mesh as part of the real world.

Buck also simply looks non-organic. He fails to display a natural quality that would let us buy him as real. We all have vast experience with actual dogs, so it becomes easy to pick up on the issues with this CG version.

And then there’s Buck’s eyes, which live firmly in Uncanny Valley. I get that eyes offer the most challenging aspect of CG characters, but other films succeed better than Wild, as Buck’s plastic, lifeless orbs ensure we never accept him as real,

If you can get past the problematic CG, you’ll probably find something to like with Wild, as the film itself comes with natural strengths. Generally episodic in nature, it moves at a decent pace, and at its heart, Buck offers a potentially engaging character.

No, this never turns into a plot-heavy effort, but it doesn’t need to go down that path. With a lot of action and adventure, the core boasts plenty of room to entertain, and the movie manages to execute these scenes with reasonable charm and energy.

The presence of Ford as our human main character helps. Now pushing 80, he remains as charismatic and compelling as ever, so he grounds the film well.

If only Wild didn’t suffer from an absurdly unconvincing canine lead, it might become a charming fable. Unfortunately, the awful visual effects severe limit its appeal.


The Disc Grades: Picture B+/ Audio B+/ Bonus C

The Call of the Wild appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.39:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. The movie offered a fine transfer.

Overall definition seemed positive. Only an occasional sliver of softness materialized, so the movie mostly appeared accurate and concise.

I noticed no signs of jaggies or edge enhancement, and shimmering was absent. The film lacked print flaws and seemed clean.

Many period pieces opt for subdued palettes, and that was true here. The colors tended toward golden tones and teal. These appeared fine within the film’s stylistic choices.

Blacks seemed dark and tight, and shadows demonstrated good clarity. This added up to a satisfying presentation.

In addition, the film’s DTS-HD MA 7.1 soundtrack opened up the film in a satisfying manner. Though the mix didn’t give us wall-to-wall theatrics, it managed to use the spectrum well.

As expected, the film’s occasional action sequences boasted nice breadth and activity, and the scenes in the Yukon created a fine sense of involvement. Moments on raging rapids worked nicely, as did an avalanche. While the soundscape didn’t stun us on a constant basis, it provided more than enough to succeed.

Audio quality seemed consistently solid. Speech appeared natural and distinctive; no edginess or other issues marred the dialogue.

Music sounded warm and full, while effects showed good clarity and accuracy. When necessary, bass response came across as deep and tight. All of this lifted the track to “B+” status.

A few minor extras appear here, and It’s All About Buck goes for 23 minutes, 52 seconds. It offers comments from Jack London’s great-granddaughter Tarnel Abbott, director Chris Sanders, screenwriter Michael Green, producer Erwin Stoff, visual effects supervisor Erik Nash, dog trainer Molly O’Neill, visual effects producer Ryan Stafford, Sanders’ wife Jessica Steele-Sanders, and actors Harrison Ford and Terry Notary.

“Buck” looks at the source and its adaptation, story and characters, the design and execution of the lead dog, and various effects. “Buck” delivers a fairly satisfying view of some of the series’ choices and challenges.

The World of The Wild spans eight minutes, 29 seconds and brings notes from Sanders, Stoff, Ford, Nash, Stafford, Abbott, visual consultant Andrew L. Jones, production designer Stefan Dechant and costume designer Kate Hawley.

“World” focuses on sets and locations, costumes, photography and more visual effects. Though brief, this becomes another informative view of the filmmaking processes.

The disc opens with an ad for Jungle Cruise. We also get a trailer for Wild.

With a time-tested story, some fun action and a brisk pace, The Call of the Wild comes with the ingredients to delight. Unfortunately, it suffers from some of the worst computer effects in recent memory, and since these involve a character who appears onscreen for nearly every shot, the movie suffers badly. The Blu-ray brings very good picture and audio along with a few bonus materials. If it came with stronger visual effects, this could’ve become a winning movie.

Viewer Film Ratings: 2 Stars Number of Votes: 1
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