God damn the CGI dog in this is so fucking distracting. More than all the other CGI animals, lakes, scenery, what have you. This would’ve been a pretty damn decent adaptation of the beloved novel if they had just used a real dog for the rest of the scenes that didn’t put the animal in any danger. I get that you have to use a CGI dog after the fiasco that A Dog’s Purpose (don’t worry Sarah Sides, you could easily handle this film with your crying bullshit) got when behind the scenes video showed a terrified real dog just being dropped into a mildly fast studio made river, but the CGI should just be used in those dangerous scenes. In this film for example, completely fine to use the technology to show a dog surviving being trapped under the ice of a frozen lake, jumping off the roof of a cabin that is on fire, etc. But to keep that CGI dog doing simple things that a trick dog could do alongside Harrison Ford just looks so fucking odd and it takes away from the otherwise entertaining movie. You get even more flabbergasted when you realize the CGI dog is basically just a human in a tight green screen suit with balls whose model was scanned after an adopted dog (they couldn’t have taught that dog tricks?!), handing something to Harrison Ford that was in his mouth. So fucking distracting.
But the rest of the movie is fine. Entertaining a bit actually. Yet a little cliched from a lot of other dog movies you’ve seen, but this is forgivable because this is an adaptation of a really old novel (1903 to be exact), which set the standard for future movies and novels to basically just copy it, thus cliches being born. The film follows a giant St. Bernard named Buck as he is stolen from his home in California and sent to the Yukon to be a sled mail service dog, where he eventually befriends Han Solo and begins a life-altering adventure. You always have to admire a film in which Harrison Ford actually looks as if he’s giving a damn. He is in one quick scene near the beginning but really doesn’t come into play until the 40 minute mark, and is there the rest of the film. Despite cringe worthy narration from Ford that reminded me of the one he reluctantly did for Blade Runner’s theatrical release, his acting overall is pretty good. Seemed like he didn’t mind being in an adaptation of the story. But this is Buck’s story mostly, so the CGI dog is in almost every frame of the movie…and I just couldn’t get over it until Ford shows up for the rest of the film, and even then it was all still blantantly in my peripheral vision. At least the film was free for me (I used all my Disney points to get a free digital copy of it).
There are other known actors in the films, but with very, very small roles that I didn’t understand why they couldn’t have just cast unknowns that could done the same job but for less money, kick start their careers so to speak. You have Omar Sy as one of the bob sled mail service guys that buys Buck after he is stolen, you have Dan Stevens hamming it up as the bad guy that doesn’t care about animals and is just looking for gold, and then Karen Gillan even shows up in a blink and you’ll miss her part as Dan Steven’s characters’ girlfriend. It’s very very weird. But the rest of the film, like I said, is fine. Surprised me a bit actually that it didn’t really lose my attention (it couldn’t though really with that “I can’t look away” awful CGI dog). I mean seriously, this is animal CGI almost as bad in the Twilight movies, where the wolves looked utterly fake as fuck. They seriously should’ve just used a dog that could do cool little tricks for the very easy scenes and then just relied heavily on CGI in the dangerous ones and not let the real dog get anywhere near that situation. It would’ve been much more forgivable. At first when watching the marketing I thought that maybe Harrison asked that he not act alongside a real dog. I don’t believe that anymore. I bet we would’ve gotten an even better performance out of him if the dog was real, and he fucking knows it. It all has to do with animal rights, and I get it, but there could’ve been better workarounds. But my tiny 2 and a half year old was pointing at all the animals, getting all excited, and enjoyed the parts of the movie that he watched, so what the fuck do I know?