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THE CALL OF THE WILD: 3 ½ STARS. “old-fashioned action adventure.”

In the world of canine coming-of-age stories Jack London’s “The Call of the Wild“ is the alpha dog. The survival tale has been given a new, high tech sheen in a film starring Harrison Ford and a CGI dog named Buck.

Buck, a domesticated St. Bernard/Scotch Collie stolen from his comfortable life in California is transported to Yukon where he is sold to a mail delivery sled team. “He’s not bad, “says his owner Perrault (Omar Sy) after a bad initial run, “he’s just got California feet.” Soon Buck learns the ways of the pack and for the first time listen to his own voice not his masters.

Belonging to the pack brings with it a growing confidence and joy that fades when the 2400-mile mail delivery route is cancelled and he is sold to Hal (“Downton Abbey’s” Dan Stevens). A citidiot with Gold Rush fever but no clue how to navigate the North’s weather or handle a dog team, his animal cruelty catches the eye of John Thornton (Harrison Ford). A drifter, the loss of his young son provoked Thornton to move north looking for solace. “I know there may be no peace,” he says, “no home for me in this world.” He senses something special in Buck and, as their paths cross, he develops a bond with the hard-working animal.

When Hal endangers not only himself, but his companions and the dog pack Thornton intercedes. As they get to know one another, Buck and his new master fill a role in each other’s lives left by the loss of a pack and a son. “You’re not my pet,” Thornton tells Buck. Together they heed the call of the wild and head off on an adventure that will lead them to a place “off the map” and to their destinies.

The Call of the Wild” is an old-fashioned action adventure created with newfangled technology. Beautiful scenery, a pantomime-style villain and a couple of exciting close calls could be straight out of many old-school Disney kid’s adventures. Buck, however, is a different story. His, and the other dogs faces are expressive in a way photorealistic-animals in movies like “The Lion King” and “Lady and the Tramp” were not. It’s often subtle but a raising of the eyebrows or a concerned look in the eye gives Buck considerably more personality than some recent animated animals and that is important for a dog who not only understands home décor (antler hanging) but also human psychology.

“The Call of the Wild” is a handsomely made movie that allows the story’s adult themes of love and redemption to occur without bogging down the part that will appeal to kids–the adventure. Parents should not that there are a couple of animals-in-peril scenes you might want to consider before bringing the young children.

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