This is a weird one to review as it’s aimed at the younger demographic – but its material is arguably more suited to the more discerning cinema-goer.
That’s because it’s based around the 1890s American Klondike Gold Rush, and in my screening it generally seemed to appeal to people who are drawing their pension – more than youngsters venturing through their early school years.
That’s not to say there’s not an appeal for young ‘uns – it does have a ‘dog’ in it which is a good start – but being based on Jack London’s 1903 novel clearly brings appeal across the board.
When impressively computer-generated St Bernard/Scotch Collie ‘Buck’ gets stolen from his Californian home and sold to freight haulers – he gets sent to Alaska and turned into a sled dog in the harsh wilderness of Canada’s Yukon during the gold rush.
The movie is generally split into two parts. Firstly, we see the initially-pampered and mischievous Buck come of age as he earns the respect of his pack while helping Omar Sy’s (Bishop from X-Men: Days of Future Past) postman Perrault deliver the mail to important outposts across snowy Canadian plains.
He then ends up in the hands of experienced outdoorsman John Thornton (Harrison Ford) – still mourning the death of his young son and having become estranged from his wife – who saves the mistreated Buck from greedy prospector and new owner Hal (Beauty and the Beast’s Dan Stevens), and they go on an adventure together to find new lands.
The only problem is as Buck ‘finds himself’ with a Timber Wolf pack, the snivelling Hal – who blames Thornton for missing out on a gold haul – is tracking them for vengeance.
In between there are some impressive and heartwarming sequences that can’t help but leave you rooting for Buck, and arguably the first half – without Ford (who incidentally does nothing wrong) – is more entertaining in the second leg, which could bore youngsters a little more as the film progresses.
But with breathtaking scenery to accompany the (generally) impressive CGi Buck, this proves to be a solid re-telling – if nothing more – of a classic story that provides some noteworthy bite to go with its affectionate bark.
ESP Rating: 3/5
Cast: Harrison Ford, Omar Sy, Dan Stevens, Cara Gee, Karen Gillan & Bradley Whitford
Running Time: 1 Hr 40 Mins
Director: Chris Sanders
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