If there is one thing the global pandemic has taught us, it’s that our way of living can be turned upside down quite easily. We have all felt the effects of something no naked eye can see. Companies have been reduced to shells of themselves—or even cease to exist. People have learned to adapt to life in a technologically driven world—often through a computer screen. It makes for a world that may look and feel quite different once society is ready to push the start button again. It’s interesting that the recent film The Call of the Wild makes the concept of friendship a focal point, reminding us all that even if we don’t think we need each other, we really do.
Set at the end of the 19th century during the Klondike Gold Rush, the film (adapted from Jack London’s beloved novel) focuses on a dog named Buck. At the beginning of the movie, he lives with a judge in Santa Clara, California. Buck is huge—both in size and in the ability to cause problems (such as giving into temptation and chowing down on a massive buffet set up for the judge’s guests). He is captured one night and is thrown on a train to Skagway Alaska, where he delivers mail as part of a sled dog team led by Perrault (Omar Sy) and Francoise (Cara Gee). He’s ready to run the show but doesn’t understand how the pecking order works. Spitz is Perrault’s alpha dog and will not give it up easily. However, Buck’s compassion and generosity to the other sled dogs has a ripple effect that eventually leads to him taking over and helping Perrault and Francoise deliver the mail on time for the first time ever.
But that’s not Buck’s overall plan for life—Perrault and Francois lose their jobs and his sled dog team is sold to Hal (Dan Stevens), a man with a vile temper and no knowledge of how to lead anything or anybody. As a result, he almost drives the dog team to the breaking point—until John Thornton (Harrison Ford) shows up and rescues him, infuriating Hal even further. Why did John rescue Buck? It seems the two had met each other a few times in the past, with Buck returning John’s harmonica to him in Skagway. This friendship is exactly what the two need, even as they endure nature, the aforementioned Hal, and Buck’s discovery of his place in the world.
The film itself has numerous scenes of absolute beauty—both visually and emotionally. Director Chris Sanders, in his directorial debut, does a nice job weaving in plot points, action sequences, and the requisite Harrison Ford voiceover. I do think the ending was a bit telegraphed, but it still had a satisfying element to it due to the connection John and Buck have with each other. For the most part, the other characters weren’t memorable, although Sy’s Perrault reminds me of Cool Runnings for some reason (say it with me: “Feel the rhythm, feel the rhyme . . .”). If there is a real issue in the movie, it involves the CGI. In this day and age, we’re used to realism exactly like real life. There were a number of times where I was actually distracted due to seeing something abnormal (the jumping on the beds in Judge Miller’s house was one). However, The Call of the Wild does a good enough job to warrant a recommendation from me.
John Thornton had life change for him with the loss of his son, Tim. He needed stability that did not arrive when he wanted it. However, Buck’s entrance into his life was a game-changer for him. John gave into his sense of adventure and began to transform into the person Tim would’ve been proud of. This is exactly what a true friend does—they see our good and our bad yet make the conscious choice to challenge, encourage, and love us. In fact, the Bible says that “A friend loves at all times” (Proverbs 17:17 NASB). In life—and even moreso during this once-in-a-lifetime situation we find ourselves in—we need true friends to rally around us as we rally around them. Buck changed for the better in the film and this is part of the reason why. May we take his example to heart today!
The Call of the Wild is available on VOD now.