28+ The Call of the Wild Reviews – Unsurprisingly Jack London’s novel is Disney Sanitized

The Call Of The Wild (2020) ⭐️⭐️⭐️

If you want to see a more faithful adaptation of the Jack London novella, go with the 1972 version of The Call of the Wild. Beware of the dogs, however, because it’s a (much!) more brutal film and uses real dogs, not special effects. Dogs are savagely beaten and bloodied by cruel human masters.

I flirted with idea of including a picture from that movie, but a text description will have to do. Earlier this week I showed a pic of a Borg implant eye being severed (Star Trek: Picard S1:E5), that’s enough torture pictures here for one week.

This move in 2020 using real dogs would have PETA burning down Hollywood. Oh, how times have changed.

In true Disney fashion, the film purges almost all of this [violence]. The man in the red sweater hits Buck only once. The fight between Buck and Spitz ends with Buck holding Spitz down, and then Spitz walking away into the woods. The dogs on the trip with the Southlanders also escape into the forest, rather than dying in the river. Without this interrogation of the nature of brutality, this version of The Call of the Wild becomes much more like the other dog stories London decidedly wasn’t writing: sentimental and moralistic.

The Call of the Wild book vs. movie: How the new adaptation compares to Jack London’s novel.

Hard not to like a gun-toting Charlton Heston (“Get your paws off me, you damn dirty ape!”). You’ll get none of that in the Harrison Ford Disneyfied The Call Of The Wild. Whether or not you consider this sort of source material sanitizing good or bad, I’ll leave up to you.

Me? I preferred the script from the 1972 version. I didn’t need to see the dog whipping and beating, but I think it was a superior script to the 2020 version. The production values, however, for the 2020 version are worlds better of course. They should be for a film with a budget of $135 million. Just how much of that was spent on the CGI dog I don’t know.

Time to get into the spoilers … if you haven’t seen this yet, might want to come back after seeing it to avoid finding out too much more about the film.

… you have been warned SPOILERS ahead …

More Harrison Ford Needed

Knew he was a supporting actor but didn’t expect him to be almost completely absent from the first half of the film. Call me greedy, but wish he had been more like Charlton Heston in the 1972 version. I realize the main character is Buck, but the two of them together is preferred.

There Be Gold In Them Thar Hills

The quest for gold is seen as a fool’s errand and/or something that the antagonists must do. And yet, when Harrison Ford character finds the gold almost by accident, he is only interest in a “pocket full, no more.”

Reviews by Others

Here are pullquotes taken from other movie bloggers reviews of The Call Of The Wild.


  1. Bill Pence / Coram Deo: “…is a well-made, family friendly film”
  2. Bryan Caron / Chaos breeds Chaos (Grade: A-): “I just wish the producers had been brave enough to use real animals for the majority of the film. Who knows how much funnier and sweeter it would have been had they gone that direction”
  3. DiscussingFilm: “Despite awkward effects and a third act that stalls the film’s momentum, it is a well-rounded film that can grow to become somewhat of a classic.”
  4. Doug Jamieson / The Jam Report (3/5): “This is exactly the kind of film Walt Disney himself used to produce, echoing back to the days of family adventures like Old Yeller and Swiss Family Robinson. It’s a tale steeped in tradition, begging the question of why more traditional filmmaking techniques weren’t employed to capture its true essence.”
  5. filmfanstake: “…is well acted, delivers beautiful cinematography and tells a dog story that everyone is familiar with. It plays to its strengths and doesn’t deviate from that.”
  6. Frostwritten / Allie Frost (8/10): “…while I love London’s stark portrayal of the life of a dog in the cold, cold north, and I respect the era in which it was written, I personally didn’t mind the changes in this version. Many of the original themes – nature versus nurture, the enduring relationship between man and dog, and the pull of primordial instincts, etc. – remain important touchstones to the story, even if they are shown in a different way.”
  7. Full Circle Cinema (7.5/10): “…is an uneven adaptation that struggles to find its audience. Certain plot points move at an odd pace and there are cheesy moments galore. And while Buck makes for an engaging character, the CGI is sometimes too distracting for its own good.”
  8. Great Ocean Writing (4/5): “is a touching film that celebrates endurance and friendship. Just be sure to have a box of tissues with you in the cinema.”
  9. Grant Watson / FictionMachine: “…is somewhat flawed and uneven it feels deeply refreshing and enjoyable at the same time. It is a faulty work, but at the same time a properly enjoyable family film”
  10. harveycritic / Big Apple Reviews: “At an hour and forty minutes, the movie does not outlast its welcome and might even encourage your little ones later to put down their phones and read some of Jack London’s adventure tales.”
  11. Irish Film Critic (3/5): “While the film is highly adventurous with bits of refrained humor, the weight that carries the film is the ability to transform characters from a negative environment into a welcoming and intrinsically diverse culture that allows its participants to be their best selves in spite of their own flaws.”
  12. insidered / SirkTV: “This movie of course couldn’t have been made even 5 years ago. But this is a distinct step forward in terms of realistic portrayal with borderline natural behavior. It used the tech to  exceptional use for story purposes without losing the sense of the idea”
  13. Katie Carter / Katie at the Movies: “There’s something appealing for every age, making this a family movie in every sense of the world.  It may not be the best or most faithful version of the story, but it’s hard not to be won over by the relationship between man and dog.”
  14. Kim Newman: “Ford’s narration works better when he’s not onscreen and sometimes it’d be nice to get more of a sense of the real landscape and real fur alongside the carefully crafted simulation, but it has great action scenes”
  15. One Movie, Our Views (3/4): “I do wish that the film had been a bit darker at times. But as I mentioned earlier, it would have been very hard for any film to truly live up to London’s timeless novel, and there is still plenty to enjoy about this version”
  16. Ready Steady Cut: “…is light on depth and you shouldn’t expect much more beneath the surface of analyzing the original source material’s take on loyalty and love that is as pure as the freshly fallen snow versus the greedy, vain, uninformed types that think they can tackle the great white north with entitlement and daddy’s money.”
  17. Russell Tom / Social Thrills: “…this family-friendly adaptation of the book to screen adventure story is sure to delight all ages.”
  18. Ryan Guido: “…the CGI in the film is wonderfully done. Buck, as well as all other animals portrayed in the film, are digitally created and exceptionally so. Despite the daunting task, each animal portrayed is believable and their interactions with each other and humans feel authentic in nature.”
  19. Seantaj / Nerdtropolis (7.5/10): “…is a great break from the big blockbusters hitting the theaters as of late. We just don’t get family movies like this anymore with such a meaningful and powerful story.”
  20. Tatiana Hullender / The Illumnerdi: “While Buck’s over-exaggerated facial features may take a good 15 minutes to get used to, Notary’s expressions and movements bring life to the performance and make the St. Bernard and sheepdog mix feel as real as any dog you’ve had.”

Not Recommended

  1. alexlynch65 / David A. Lynch: “…scribe Michael Green, and his screenplay tends to over-explain itself into lifelessness as a fairly brisk (if totally Disney-ified) first hour passes the baton to a second half that’s starved for narrative thrust.”
  2. Dashran Yohan: “There are no characters arcs in The Call of the Wild. No journey. Only generic plot points and one-dimensional ideas that we rush towards before moving onto the next one. It’s the kind of uninspired nothing-picture that leaves your body as you take your post-movie piss.”
  3. Dyl’s Movie Stuff (6/10): “The Call of the Wild feels like it should’ve been animated but, instead, is an average adventure film with a weird cartoon dog at the center of it.”
  4. Keithlovesmovies (60%): “…is a nice movie for a rainy Saturday afternoon. You’ll have a bit of fun and maybe even cry a little. but nothing more than that.”
  5. Novastorm: “The whole things comes off as a little confusing. There is a lot of violence and dog fighting in the movie that could really disturb younger audiences, yet the dialogue and story is squarely aimed at them.”
  6. Oscar Duffy / duffyreviews (5.5/10): “…has got fabulous source material behind it, and star power giving it some flesh and bone. But its bite is missing, due to the over-reliance on artificiality and mawkishness both in its script and visual storytelling.”
  7. Sean McConville Reviews (6/10): “The potential of this story could teach lessons to younger viewers through mildly mature scenes, but it plays it safe and that, combined with questionable CGI, it what will bring it down for some.”
  8. Trailer Trashed (2.5/5): “If you have kids, they will probably love this film for Buck’s cartoonish antics, but adults beware, there is not a lot here for the likes of us.”

Linked above and wondering what would be the cool thing to do next? Commenting once in awhile is always good (I like reader and other blogger interaction). If you have the trackback/pingback come to your site then just approve it because after people read your review then they can come here and follow links and read someone else’s review. What comes around goes around and sharing is the ultimate “thank you!” on the internet.

Did I miss your review? Use the comments to tell me about your movie-related/review blog and I’ll follow. I like following movie-related blogs and pull quoting from my reading list as well as other new blogs shared, liked and discovered.

Happy movie watching!

7 thoughts on “28+ The Call of the Wild Reviews – Unsurprisingly Jack London’s novel is Disney Sanitized

  1. I will certainly visit those other blogs to read theirs!

    Nice job, as always. Coming back to blogging tomorrow, my family are going to Disneyland for my birthday which is also the exact same day as my mom’s. Until then, great content!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. You linked to my review on Simon Dillon Books (thank you) but if you read my review, you’ll see overall I liked the film. I just wasn’t sold on the CGI. So putting it under “Not Recommended” isn’t quite accurate. I’d have it under “Recommended with Reservations” perhaps.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Ok. Re-read your review in detail and this sure doesn’t seem like you recommended it to me. There is no rating or any other score that I can base this on. Unfortunately, this will lead to some errors because I can’t reach inside the movie reviewers brain when reading. You are either recommending it or not, there is no middle “maybe” (how valuable is that, anyway? lol) option. I usually put the ones in your case — if you have read past review collections like this — under “not recommended” if it isn’t a B grade or 3/5 stars or specifically said in the review it is recommended. Nowhere in your review does it have any of these details. That’s cool if you don’t believe in ratings or scores or some sort of clear recommended or not answer, but for the rest of us out here, that’s not as useful. Just saying.

        Respectfully, maybe you want to include something that would better indicate recommend or not in your reviews? Not trying to tell you how to run your site or how to review anything, but the most important thing a moviegoer wants to learn from a review is: recommended or not to see? You liked the movie, but disliked the CGI and say it’s “fun for the family” — what does that mean? Go see it if you can get past the CGI?

        That’s pretty much exactly what I said, only I gave it 3 stars and recommended others to see it. So, at the end of the day, I think you and I agreed on our reviews. In your case, I just couldn’t tell from reading if you were actually recommending it to others or not.

        I don’t think you meant to imply that I just quoted and linked you without reading your review, which is inaccurate. I read them all and link them manually. No machines involved here 🙂 And no reason to do so.

        At any rate, sorry for the mistake on my part. I removed the quote and link.


      2. No need to apologise at all. I appreciate the link in any case. If it’s too much hassle I’d much rather keep the link under “Not recommended”, if it’s all right with you. Thank you.


  3. OK I just read your second reply (for some reason my computer didn’t load it a moment ago). Yes, I appreciate what you are saying. I avoid star ratings because I find them reductive and they inevitably lead to foolish, one-size-fits-all comparisons (for example, I might think a film like Amour or Son of Saul is brilliantly acted and directed, worthy of five stars from a critical perspective, but they certainly aren’t films I’d recommend to anyone looking for a fun night out, and nothing would ever induce me to watch them again). Nonetheless I take your point. Most people like star ratings. In this case, you are correct to say I agreed with you, and would (if a gun was placed to my head) rate this as 3/5.

    Please do feel free to keep the link to my blog, and please continue to do so in future if you wish to. I promise I won’t make a fuss again, if I feel you’ve misread one of my “mixed feelings” reviews. 😉


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