Allumination Filmworks // 2000 // 95 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // June 11th, 2008
Answer the call.
Miles Challenger (Shane Meier) is a 15-year-old boy who's growing restless in the backwater Alaska town that he calls home. He yearns to be free of his tedious life and embarking on his own adventure as a guide. But his stepfather is reluctant to let him go. What is a boy filled with piss and vinegar like this supposed to do?
For starters, you get yourself an awesome-ass dog. Buck is that dog, a courageous Husky that has the "Call of the Wild" in him. When Buck's not kicking the crap out of his canine arch-rival, he's pulling his sled team through a storm and saving his master from dying a painful death from exposure.
Eventually the destinies of Buck and Miles will intersect when Miles lands his first guide job and Buck is the lead sled dog on the team. What ensues is a boisterous yarn set in the frigid north, riddled with frozen corpses, bags of gold, treasure maps and humongous fur hats.
This made-for-TV approach to Jack London's well-known masterwork does the trick if you're hankering for an inoffensive, antiseptic family adventure. It won't blow your mind and doesn't break new ground in the genre, but I have no hesitation in recommending it if you've got the kiddos that would appreciate something like this.
The execution is satisfactory, with Meier turning in a solid, wide-eyed performance as Miles, who is able to move easily from defiance (when talking to his stepfather) to anxiety (when he realizes that the wealthy, city couple that contracted his guide services are greedy dickheads) to resolve (when he accepts the challenge of surviving in the harsh climate with his best doggie pal by his side).
All the trademarks of a syrupy family outing are here, from the sweeping melodramatic music to the in-your-face moralizing to that intractable bond forged between a boy and his dog. Actually, in all truthfulness, that last bit could have been given more screen time. Miles and Buck were certainly buddies, but I never felt a true kinship between the two, and that's where these family-animal movies often get their dramatic juice from.
But that's not a deal-breaker. Call of the Wild is still a success. It's not hard-hitting or particularly memorable, but it hits the right notes and packs plenty of snowy, dog action into its runtime, which, incidentally, is not 120 minutes as the disc case says, but 95.
The full frame and 2.0 stereo mix is little to get excited about, but like the feature, it gets the job done -- clean adequate, both. Previews are it for extras.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Allumination Filmworks
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 95 Minutes
Release Year: 2000
MPAA Rating: Not Rated