3-D indie "Call of the Wild" loses focus (literally) but gets by on its good-hearted demeanor and a gently sweet turn by white-bearded Christopher Lloyd as the heroine's protective gramps.

Alternately jerking the audience’s tears and splashing snow in their faces, 3-D indie “Call of the Wild” loses focus (literally) but gets by on its good-hearted demeanor and a gently sweet turn by white-bearded Christopher Lloyd as the heroine’s protective gramps. Pic’s other standout perf is given by the huge canine cast as Buck, an initially infirm, ultimately athletic dog/wolf hybrid that pulls a 10-year-old city girl over the line in a climactic sled race. Alas, kiddie auds likely won’t come along for the ride in big numbers for a limited-release film whose 3-D is fuzzier than Buck’s fur.

Shot on location in wintry Montana, “Call of the Wild” is related only loosely but cleverly to Jack London’s like-titled novel, which Lloyd’s character reads to his pigtailed granddaughter, triggering brief re-enactments of the original narrative. Among supporting players, Wes Studi underwhelms as a woodsman who walks fully armed down Main Street, while Veronica Cartwright makes a welcome appearance as a “Fargo”-style sheriff who allows a dogsled contest to determine the ownership of wild Buck. Too bad the animal’s protruding nose is the only feature that demands the third dimension.

Call of the Wild

Production

A Braeburn Entertainment release of a Vivendi Entertainment, Braeburn presentation of a Check Entertainment production, in association with 21st Century 3D. Produced by Nancy Draper, Gary Draper, Richard Gabai. Executive producer, Richard Iott. Co-producers, Larissa Michel, Stacy Fish. Directed by Richard Gabai. Screenplay, Leland Douglas, from the novel by Jack London.

Crew

Camera (color, DV, 3-D), Scott Peck; editors, Axel Hubert, Lawrence Maddox; music, Deeji Mincey, Boris Zelkin; art director, Caitlin Pashalek; costume designer, Annalisa Adams. Reviewed at Carmike 15, Apple Valley, Minn., June 12, 2009. MPAA Rating: PG. Running time: 87 MIN.

With

Christopher Lloyd, Ariel Gade, Wes Studi, Aimee Teegarden, Devon Graye, Kameron Knox, Jaleel White, Joyce DeWitt, Veronica Cartwright, Timothy Bottoms, Devon Iott.

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