The Boy Who Bribed Wolf
Having watched the 1972 movie "The Call of the Wild" which was based upon a Jack London novel I knew what to expect from "White Fang" a Disney take on another Jack London novel. But whilst "White Fang" was the live action adventure movie I expected with some wonderful snowy action scenes it left me unmoved. Having never read the original story I don't know how much it differs but for the most of the movie the separation of stories as on one hand we have a story of a young wolf and then on the other a young man called Jack makes it feel too disjointed.
Following his mother's death sometime after his father's, Jack Conroy (Ethan Hawke - Dead Poets Society) decides to head to the Yukon to take over the claim that his dad worked in hope of striking the gold his father believed was there. Befriending two old hands in Alex (Klaus Maria Brandauer) and Skunker (Seymour Cassel) Jack makes his way across country an adventure in itself as Alex is transporting a coffin containing his old partner who he promised to bury by his claim. It is on this journey that Jack first spots a wolf cub which is half dog and later on Jack would see him again and again until one day jack rescues the wolf called White Fang from a trio men who use him in illegal dog fights.
So as already mentioned I have not read Jack London's original story so not only don't know of what differences there are but also don't know what the emphasis was on, was it city boy Jack becoming a Gold prospector or the young wolf becoming Jack's loyal companion. But the thing is that even if it was one of those two things I would still be a little disappointed because for over half of the movie we have separate stories which only occasionally meet. So on one hand we have the adventure of young White Fang being left orphaned and having to try and fend for itself and then on the other we have Jack accompanied by Alex and Skunker as he heads for his father's claim. Both stories have aspects of adventure and even humour but for me they are too separate.
It means for me "White Fang" only really starts to work during the second half where we watch Jack rescue the wolf from the 3 cruel men using him in illegal dog fights. Now for some what follows is just cliche as we watch Jack slowly gain the trust of the wild White Fang but the way this develops with deeper emotional moments for me makes it the better part of the movie. Having said that this is also the half of the movie where for some it will be too graphic as there are scenes of dog fighting which trust me when compared to "Call of the Wild" from 1972 seem tame in comparison which is a good thing.
Because it is almost the cliche second half which works for me that I reckon that to truly love "White Fang" you will have needed to have read and fallen in love with London's original story. Having said that director Randal Kleiser has crafted a great looking movie and the various scenes of a snowy Yukon are magnificent especially one involving the mountain climb. And on top of that the performances work to with a young Ethan Hawke doing a good job as young Jack but with Klaus Maria Brandauer as Alex delivering the more depth as his friend.
What this all boils down to is that "White Fang" is an entertaining adventure movie, exactly what you expect from this sort of Disney movie especially from the early 90s. But for me it struggled to keep my attention during the first half only really grabbing me when we see Jack united with White Fang.
Tags: Dog Movies