The Call Of The Wild Reviews Are In, See What Critics Are Saying

Harrison Ford and dog named Buck in The Call of the Wild
(Image credit: (20th Century Studios))

There’s nothing like a good dog movie. It’s a tried-and-true genre that has produced classics such as Old Yeller and modern hits such as Universal’s A Dog’s series. The Call Of the Wild is a well-known book from Jack London that was written over 100 years ago. Many of us probably read it in school, but how does this new adaptation do? Is it worth checking out in theaters?

The Call Of The Wild features an impressive cast, namely with Han Solo and Indiana Jones’ actor Harrison Ford teaming up with a CGI dog named Buck. Let’s start off with CinemaBlend’s review of the upcoming release. Dirk Libbey gave the film three stars and had this to say about it:

There's never a moment in which you might mistake Buck for a real dog, as he always looks slightly off – although, for the most part the CGI is good enough to function.

Dirk felt Buck looked like Scooby Doo at times too. Now, this is a PG film made for a family-friendly audience, but quite a bit of viewers of The Call Of The Wild found the CGI a bit jarring. Here’s what Frank Scheck of The Hollywood Reporter said:

The results are visually disorienting, to say the least. Although Notary and the special effects team do as good a job as technology allows, the expressive Buck never quite looks real. And you keep expecting him and the rest of the animals to burst into song.

It looks like the effects that made Jon Favreau’s The Lion King possible are not stopping on the African Savannah. Harrison Ford and the other actors play opposite a photo-realistic dog, but it sounds like adding in the combination of this technology and humans makes for a cartoonish approach. Here’s a similar sentiment from Eric Kohn from Indiewire:

Ford gives a soulful performance, but his tender interactions with Buck — who engages with his master as if he comprehends every word — are so unconvincing that it’s a wonder that the studio didn’t throw in the towel and let the animal talk.

Apparently The Call Of The Wild has trouble drawing the line between being realistic and being just the fun family movie that it wants to be. Yolanda Machado called out the film’s villain, played by Dan Stevens of FX’s Legion, Beauty and the Beast and Downton Abbey. Here’s what she said in her review on The Wrap:

Of the cast, perhaps Dan Stevens is the one for whom I feel the most sorry. While the rest of the ensemble is given some further dimension… Stevens is left with an overdone caricature of a villain. He certainly gives the role his all; kids might be frightened because, as written and performed, it is way too over-the-top.

Yikes! That’s too bad. The Call Of The Wild does have a sneakily awesome cast also including Omar Sy, Karen Gillan, Bradley Whitford and Cara Gee. However, that didn’t keep Peter Travers of Rolling Stone from tearing down the movie either. He wasn’t happy with the tone it settled for. In his words:

The Call of the Wild, rated a cozy PG, misses the edgy darkness of London’s tale and is too cute by half. But it fulfills its promise as harmless entertainment — The Call of the Mild is more apt title.

Then again, some of these problems that critics are bringing up just might not bother everyone. Some families might appreciate the cartoony dog and “mild” approach to the classic novel. Owen Gleiberman admitted he was affected by the sweet story of the film. From his Variety review:

The Call of the Wild turns into a movie about a difficult but devoted dog and the master who’s a bit of a lonely old mutt himself. For all the wholesome cheesiness of much of the film, you’d have to have a pretty hard heart not to be touched by it.

Overall, the movie has a 66% critics score and 91% audience score on Rotten Tomatoes. The movie comes alongside other new releases such as Brahms: The Boy II, Emma, and Greed. Will you be checking out The Call Of The Wild this weekend? Sound off in the comments and vote in our poll below.

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Sarah El-Mahmoud
Staff Writer

Sarah El-Mahmoud has been with CinemaBlend since 2018 after graduating from Cal State Fullerton with a degree in Journalism. In college, she was the Managing Editor of the award-winning college paper, The Daily Titan, where she specialized in writing/editing long-form features, profiles and arts & entertainment coverage, including her first run-in with movie reporting, with a phone interview with Guillermo del Toro for Best Picture winner, The Shape of Water. Now she's into covering YA television and movies, and plenty of horror. Word webslinger. All her writing should be read in Sarah Connor’s Terminator 2 voice over.