“When nature rules, beauty reigns.”
Ryan Hale (Gade) is on a winter break from school. Her parents are off touring Europe, so she has to leave her city life at Beacon Hill in Boston to spend some time with her grandfather (Lloyd) who lives in the wilderness of Montana. She might have been excited at first to see Montana, but soon learns that Miley Cyrus is nowhere in sight. Instead she is quickly bored with the seemingly unending parade of trees and snow. She becomes impatient with her grandfather’s appreciation for nature along with a lack of cable television. It all spells out a rather dull winter break until she finds a wounded wolf/dog. Both her grandfather and the local vet give the animal small odds of recovery, but Ryan isn’t about to give up on the beast she names Buck, after the lead in Jack London’s classic novel. Ryan’s faith is quickly rewarded as Buck regains his strength and recovers from his injuries. As the dog becomes more and more fit, it becomes obvious to the local heavy, Heep (Bottoms) and his son Oz (Graye) that he would make an impressive lead dog for a sled team. It appears, with little else to do, dog sled racing is quite the to-do in these parts. The competition is fierce, so Heep claims that he found the dog before Ryan, thereby laying claim to the animal. Ryan refuses to give Buck up, so the local sheriff (Cartwright) proposes a sled race with Buck going to the winner. Heep even agrees to allow Ryan to use Buck, because he believes it will take too long to train the wild animal to lead a team. It also helps that he has a few plans to cheat himself to a victory. Ryan gets help from Jack (Knox), a local boy with a sled team, to train Buck for the race. The results are somewhat predictable, but Ryan has to learn a valuable lesson about love and sacrifice and the realities of taking a wild dog back to the city.
This film is not a new adaptation of Jack London’s wonderful tale. However, the original novel does play a significant part in this movie. Ryan’s grandfather has reading sessions with her where he reads, or at least paraphrases (likely for legal reasons) passages from the book. These passages serve as inspiration and finally understanding for young Ryan.
Christopher Lloyd gets to show a somewhat rare sentimental side to his acting resume. His character is kindly and somewhat soft spoken. He had recently lost his wife, Ryan’s grandmother. We get the sense that his character is growing as much as Ryan is. Lloyd does a fantastic job of carrying a film that is otherwise rather predictable and unoriginal. Ariel Gade is cute enough as Ryan and does a fine job of displaying her stubbornness and determination, traits we are subtly informed might have been inherited from her grandfather. There is the added element of a character named Hatcher played by an intimidating Wes Studi. He scares Ryan somewhat with his imposing frame and huge Bowie knife. Of course, we all know that in these kinds of movies you can’t judge a book by its cover, or even rumors that he is an escaped convict hiding out in these mountains. As you can see, this movie covers all of the requisite plot points.
Call Of The Wild 3D is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 You get the choice of watching the film in its normal 2D format or the 3D version. I tried to watch the film in 3D with the provided glasses. The effects do work about as well as I’ve seen on a standard definition DVD. However, the glasses have a far more than normal dark level for the left eye. For those who don’t know how these things work, the colors separate key portions of the film, while the level of darkness works to delay one part of that separated image in getting to your eye. That tricks them into believing that the two images come from different distances. Before you know it, you’ve got 3D. My eyes felt the strain after just 10 minutes, so I spent the rest of the time watching in 2D. Unfortunately, it’s not as simple as changing your “angle” button as with many of these kinds of presentations. You have to exit back to the menu and restart the film.
As for the normal video presentation, it’s barely average. Unfortunately, putting two versions on one disc limits the bit rate, so this one comes with plenty of image noise. Compression artifact and just overall static make this one a less than stellar presentation. Black levels are murky. The white levels appear to sparkle with tons of noise artifacting. Close-ups only magnify the problem. Colors are somewhat muted. Remember, this is a winter film, so there isn’t going to be a lot of color.
The Dolby Digital 5.1 track isn’t at all expansive. It’s mostly dialog with a buried score. There are a few ambient effects, but it’s all mostly front and center. There’s really nothing for your sub to do here but take a nice winter’s nap.
Just the two versions of the film.
It’s all harmless enough fun with better than average performances all the way around. As long as you are not looking for a retelling of the novel, this one will make for some fine family fun. It won’t hurt at all to fire up the fireplace and gather around the warm hearth together and watch Call Of The Wild 3D. Even though the 3D might be a bit painful, and there are only two pairs of glasses provided anyway. The whole family won’t be able to share in that experience. It’s still good in 2D. “The world is full of surprises if you look at it with the right eyes.”