Call of the Wild, The

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Not suitable under 7; parental guidance for children aged 7 to 8 (sad themes, violence, alcohol abuse, animal cruelty)

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This topic contains:

  • overall comments and recommendations
  • details of classification and consumer advice lines for Call of the Wild, The
  • a review of Call of the Wild, The completed by the Australian Council on Children and the Media (ACCM) on 24 February 2020.

Overall comments and recommendations

Children under 7 Not suitable due to sad themes, violence, alcohol abuse, and cruelty towards animals.
Children aged 7–8 Parental guidance recommended due to sad themes, violence, alcohol abuse, and cruelty towards animals.
Children aged 9 and over Ok for this age group.

About the movie

This section contains details about the movie, including its classification by the Australian Government Classification Board and the associated consumer advice lines. Other classification advice (OC) is provided where the Australian film classification is not available.

Name of movie: Call of the Wild, The
Classification: PG
Consumer advice lines: Mild themes and violence
Length: 100 minutes

ACCM review

This review of the movie contains the following information:

A synopsis of the story

It is the end of the 19th century: Buck, a spoilt St. Bernard/Scotch shepherd mix, is living a very comfortable life at a Californian estate where his loving master, Judge Miller, turns more than one blind eye on his mischief. Buck’s life takes an abrupt turn when he is snatched by dog smugglers and finds himself in the Yukon, North-Western Canada, where the Klondike goldrush is in full swing, resulting in a high demand for strong work dogs to pull sleds. After some traumatising experiences with the cruel smugglers, Buck is lucky to find new, kind masters, Perrault (Omar Sy) and Françoise (Cara Gee), who transport mail between the settlements. For the first time in his life, Buck needs to work, obey, find his place in a team, and ultimately claim his position in the pack against alpha male Spitz. To his own surprise, Buck begins to feel a sense of purpose, and also gradually reconnects with his canine instincts. When the mail line is terminated, Buck falls into the hands of nasty and goldfever-ridden Hal (Dan Stevens), who pushes Buck and his team beyond break point. Eventually, Buck is saved by John Thornton (Harrison Ford), a grief-stricken loner and drunkard. Together, the pair set out on a journey exploring the uncivilised vastness of the Yukon where Thornton finally needs to come to terms with his son's death, and Buck is torn between his loyalty for his master and the call of the wild.


Children and adolescents may react adversely at different ages to themes of crime, suicide, drug and alcohol dependence, death, serious illness, family breakdown, death or separation from a parent, animal distress or cruelty to animals, children as victims, natural disasters and racism. Occasionally reviews may also signal themes that some parents may simply wish to know about.

Bravery; perseverance; good and bad; friendship; loss and grief; animal instincts.

Use of violenceinfo

Research shows that children are at risk of learning that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution when violence is glamourised, performed by an attractive hero, successful, has few real life consequences, is set in a comic context and / or is mostly perpetrated by male characters with female victims, or by one race against another.

Repeated exposure to violent content can reinforce the message that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution. Repeated exposure also increases the risks that children will become desensitised to the use of violence in real life or develop an exaggerated view about the prevalence and likelihood of violence in their own world.

There is some violence in this movie including:

  • Buck is struck down violently with a club.
  • Spitz kills an innocent rabbit out of spite.
  • Attempting to mark his territory, Spitz challenges Buck. The two have a violent fight where they bite and wrestle each other.
  • Hal verbally threatens, abuses and uses the whip on the dog team.
  • Hal threatens Buck and John with a pistol.
  • Hal forces the team to pull the sled until complete exhaustion.
  • Hal attacks John in the saloon and sucker-punches him.
  • Hal gets thrown out of the saloon and lands roughly on the ground.
  • Hal attempts to hit Buck with a club.
  • Hal fires gunshots at a defenceless and cooperative John, inflicting a fatal wound on him.
  • Defending John, Buck pushes Hal into a burning cabin where Hal perishes.

With regards to the violence against animals, parents and carers should stress to children that no real animals were harmed in the making of this movie as they were all computer-generated.

Material that may scare or disturb children

Under fiveinfo

Children under five are most likely to be frightened by scary visual images, such as monsters, physical transformations.

In addition to the above-mentioned violent scenes, there are some scenes in this movie that could scare or disturb children under the age of five, including the following:

  • There are several scenes where Buck encounters a ghostly black wolf with bright yellow glowing eyes. It is not clear at first whether it is dangerous and means harm. Later it becomes clear that the black wolf is Buck's spirit animal and symbolises his wild instincts.
  • When John and Buck live in the wilderness, wolves can be heard howling, sounding quite scary and threatening.

Aged five to eightinfo

Children aged five to eight will also be frightened by scary visual images and will also be disturbed by depictions of the death of a parent, a child abandoned or separated from parents, children or animals being hurt or threatened and / or natural disasters.

In addition to the above-mentioned violent scenes and scary visual images, there are some scenes in this movie that could scare or disturb children aged five to eight, including the following:

  • John's distress and grief over losing his son who died of a fever at very young age may be upsetting for children in this age group.
  • After being fatally wounded from a gunshot, John is seen dying cuddled up to Buck.
  • Some animals are treated very cruelly (as mentioned above, children should be advised that all animals are computer-generated).

Aged eight to thirteeninfo

Children aged eight to thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic threats and dangers, violence or threat of violence and / or stories in which children are hurt or threatened.

In addition to the above-mentioned violent scenes, there are some scenes in this movie that could scare or disturb children aged eight to thirteen, including the following:

  • Nothing further of concern.

Product placement

  • None noted.

Sexual references

  • None noted.

Nudity and sexual activity

  • None noted.

Use of substances

There is some use of substances in this movie, including:

  • John goes to the saloon and orders a whole bottle of whiskey.
  • John is seen drinking to the point of being intoxicated (slowed reactions, slurred speech).
  • Buck pushes John's whiskey glass on the floor, steals the bottle and buries it in the snow.
  • John is distressed at first as Buck takes his alcohol away but then finds solace in Buck's company.
  • John eventually tips out his remaining alcohol.
  • There is frequent use of alcohol in this movie, but it must be noted that it is portrayed in a negative way, and eventually, with the help of Buck, John stops drinking alcohol.

Coarse language

There is some coarse language in this movie, including:

  • "God dammit".
  • "Son of a".
  • "stupid".

In a nutshell

The Call of the Wild is the latest adaptation of Jack London's classic novel, first published in 1903. Parents and carers who know the original story will find it useful to know that a lot of the originally gruesome and culturally sensitive content have been adapted or removed entirely. Therefore, while some violent and upsetting themes remain which warrant parental guidance for ages 7-8, this Walt Disney production is targeted at a family audience, best suited to ages 9 and above.

The main messages remain close to the original story, which is a tale of perseverance; bravery; the tragedies, challenges, and opportunities of life; teamwork; friendship; and finding one's place and destiny.

Values in this movie that parents may wish to reinforce with their children include:

  • perseverance
  • making the best of the given circumstances
  • believing
  • listening to one's instincts
  • friendship
  • bravery
  • making difficult choices
  • making peace with the past
  • searching for one's destiny.

This movie could also give parents the opportunity to discuss with their children attitudes and behaviours, and their real-life consequences, such as:

  • cruelty, toward humans and animals
  • greed
  • selfishness
  • unhelpful coping strategies (such as drinking and withdrawing from the world).