Call of the Wild

 
Dog-centric adventure drama is age-appropriate but bland.
  • Review Date: June 11, 2009
  • Rated: PG
  • Genre: Action/Adventure
  • Release Year: 2009
  • Running Time: 86 minutes

What parents need to know

Positive messages

A young girl sheds her preconceived notions about rural life and begins to enjoy her environment.

Positive role models

The main character lies at one point, but there are consequences, and she learns a lesson. A grandfather forges a strong relationship with his granddaughter (though he also gets upset with her). The neighbors are bullies, but it's clear that their behavior isn't meant to be emulated.

Violence & scariness

Two neighbor characters are menacing; one man flashes a rifle.

Sexy stuff
Not applicable
Language

Motherlovin' is as envelope-pushing as it gets.

Consumerism
Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking
Not applicable

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this sweet but predictable film inspired by Jack London's classic novel is squeaky clean -- there's no nudity, drinking, smoking, or swearing. And the message, while conventional, is positive: Sometimes what you want may not be what you need. That said, there are a few scenes/characters -- bullying neighbors, a grandfather getting upset with his granddaughter -- that make the tone a little too grown-up for the youngest viewers. It's also worth noting that the film is presented in 3-D in some locations, which could make some of the images more intense for little kids.

Parents say

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What's the story?

Inspired by Jack London's classic tale, CALL OF THE WILD finds young Ryan Hale (Ariel Gade) shedding her big-city ways while visiting her grandfather (Christopher Lloyd) in Montana. When she finds a wild dog at death's door, it brings out her inner nursemaid, and she devotes herself to healing the animal, which she names Buck. Ryan decides to enter Buck as lead dog in an upcoming sledding race, and all goes well until a local bully and his father start making noise about the dog not being Ryan's to keep. Even her grandfather, who reads the London novel to her out loud as motivation, begins to doubt his decision to support Ryan when she lies about a practice that went awry and Buck runs away. Is Buck ready to be tamed?

Is it any good?

QUALITY
 

CALL OF THE WILD means well, but that's not enough to make it compelling. Problem number one: lackluster dialogue. "It's Tracy," announces one character as his crush approaches. "She's the prettiest girl in town." (Who talks like that?) Number two: cheesy foreshadowing. Every time a particularly enigmatic local shows up onscreen, the wind whistles, solemn music trills, and the camerawork slows. (Ah, he must be a mystic!) Number three: a storyline that, put plainly, hits all the expected marks without much distinction (it screens like an after-school special). Plus, the race that everyone anticipates so hotly is stripped of any excitement.

But the movie tries -- does it ever! -- and you can't fault its earnestness. It means well, and the landscape looks pretty, too. With a feel-good story like this, it's best to shoot straight for the heart.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about what Ryan learns over the course of the movie. Do others learn something from her as well? Why does the wolf dog tug at her heart? Families can also discuss the appeal of nature/animal movies. How does this one compare to others you've seen? And if you've read the book, how does it stack up to that?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:June 12, 2009
DVD release date:December 22, 2009
Cast:Ariel Gade, Christopher Lloyd, Wes Studi
Director:Richard Gabai
Studio:Vivendi
Genre:Action/Adventure
Topics:Adventures, Book characters
Run time:86 minutes
MPAA rating:PG
MPAA explanation:some violence, language, thematic material, and brief smoking

This review of Call of the Wild was written by

Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are conducted by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.

Quality

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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Teen, 13 years old Written byGeekyReader101 November 28, 2012
age 2+
 

Boring but appropriate

Really cheesy and predictable. This isn't anything like the book. The good thing is that theres nothing inappropriate about it.
What other families should know
Great role models

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