A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What 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.
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?
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.
Talk to your kids 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?
- In theaters: June 12, 2009
- On DVD or streaming: 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
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.