Author: based on the book by Jack London
Genre: Survival, adventure, animals, historical fiction
My Rating: **
Official Rating: PG
Age Group: 10+ (could be 6+ depending on the kids)
Jack has come searching for his father's claim, hoping to find gold along with it. Perhaps he searches for family again, now that he has lost his. Perhaps he seeks manhood, something that will be challenged in the great wilderness. Whatever it is, his search is joined by an abused wolf-dog that he rescues and attempts to tame, along with a reluctant partner in the gold mining business who knew Jack's father. Can the threesome manage to survive in the wilderness? Will they find gold?
Word of Warning:
Not many problems in this movie. Most of the problems are dramatic but amount to almost nothing once the drama is over. Depending upon the kid, this might be acceptable for 6+
- Death. Jack's parents died (off screen). A man is killed by wolves (off screen. We hear one or two screams, along with a gun going off). A man who is already dead is in a coffin, and in a crazy slide down a hill, flies out of the coffin. He is blue, comical looking, and holding an apparently dead dog. The two fall into a lake (along with Jack) and are pushed aside in Jack's desperate attempt to escape.
- Abuse. Dogs are beaten and abused, taunted, not fed, and put in dog fights. More than one of these dogs die. Hardly any blood is seen (if at all).
- Women. There are women who appear to be prostitutes, though the hint is very well hidden. Jack makes a motion to one who is standing in the doorway watching him, suggesting he has no money, but doesn't look particularly interested anyway. He moves on. Another woman owns a bar, and Jack's partner flirts with her (rarely and hardly at all), kisses her once, and it is implied that they get married by the end of the movie.
- Danger. Jack falls through the ice and nearly dies of hypothermia. He is pulled from the lake, shaking and gasping and white, and the two with him pull off his coat and shirt before wrapping him in a blanket. They say something like "Let's get the rest of these wet clothes off" after that (implying the only thing he has left, that is, his pants) but nothing happens. Jack and his partner are attacked by wolves but are uninjured. Jack and another man are bitten by the wolf-dog. Jack and his partner are shot at and nearly burned to death in their cabin (the drama is thick, but they escape completely unharmed). Jack is buried alive in a mining accident but survives.
- Men steal and drink. They are harsh, sometimes cruel, and toughened by their time in the wilderness.
- A wild hare is chased down by wolves. We assume it is killed, as in a later scene a mother wolf brings her pup the limp white rabbit. A mother wolf is injured in a fight and shot. She dies with her pup by her side. The pup wanders about, innocent and apparently in danger, but is ultimately unharmed.
- Most of the drama comes from assuming the viewer has some understanding of what is going on and is able to predict the worst possible outcome. I can't think of one point during the movie where the worst possible outcome actually happens, which results in much of the drama feeling like a let down, but does make the movie appropriate for a bigger age range than if the drama had been followed through with and things had actually happened.
Honestly the only reason I rated this so low is because it was incredibly boring. It's a beautiful story, but the short bursts of intense action which wasn't as intense as it should have been (resulting in a sort of let down feeling), just did not keep me interested. Still, the scenery is lovely and wild, the dogs and wolves are fantastic, and even the acting is well done. Overall, there were very few problems with the movie and it is generally pretty acceptable, just not as thrilling as I'd hoped it to be. In that sense, it feels a lot like the book.
The beauty of this movie is that it is older and relatively acceptable for most audiences. It does have some exciting scenes in it, is full of historical fiction information, and the boring parts (like the nearly twenty minutes of a wolf pup wandering about the wilderness) can be fast-forwarded with almost no loss to understanding of the story. It would make a good family movie night movie.