Film Review: ‘White Fang’

The wild wolfdog international relations and security network ’ t the only thing that gets tamed in “ White Fang, ” Luxembourgish animator Alexandre Espigares ’ s ravishingly designed new take on the old Jack London chestnut : London ’ s hard-bitten survivalist narrative is in for a wholesome cleaning besides. apparently more faithful to the fresh than Randal Kleiser ’ south 1991 live-action family gamble — preferably than introducing a human supporter, it wisely stays firm to London ’ s overriding cur ’ s-eye-view — it however retains some of that film ’ randomness Disneyfied plot adjustments, and tempers sealed visceral details to puppydog-cute impression. That ’ s apprehensible given the junior prey audience, though it ’ sulfur uncertain whether smaller fry will be sufficiently enraptured by the film ’ s amply rendered Yukon environment to wait out its baronial, staggered storytelling .
Either means, enterprising families can find out for themselves via Netflix, which scooped up Espigares ’ mho film after a warmly received premiere in Sundance ’ s Kids sidebar. It will probable be most prize, however, by animation buffs, for its strikingly tactile, oil-painting-textured ocular proficiency. Stepping into features after winning an academy award for the capricious 2013 short “ Mr. Hublot, ” the director asserts himself as a cartoon stylist of impressive ingenuity and delicacy, invaluably abetted by art director Stéphane Gallard. That said, his affinity for the material, adapted in everyday fashion by a trio of Francophone writers, international relations and security network ’ triiodothyronine always palpable in this case .

In what might be a jumble gambit for younger viewers, this “ White Fang ” opens with a flash-forward to the rough center of the narrative, introducing the eponymous beast at his lowest ebb, entered in a dog-fighting match by abusive Fort Yukon lowlife Beauty Smith ( voiced by Paul Giamatti ). He ’ s rescued from the affray by the imposing Weedon Scott ( Nick Offerman ) — not the affluent gold hunter of London ’ s novel but an upstanding lawman, in a moral fine-tune distinctive of the film ’ mho sanitized set about — before proceedings rewind to White Fang ’ s early years in the angry.

The ensuing half-hour of largely dialogue-free ocular storytelling, as the newborn pup learns the direction of the wilderness from his protective mother Kiche, is the film ’ s most excitingly sustained and artful passage, buoyed by Bruno Coulais ’ s alert if possibly over-ornamented score. The tempo is well more consider than that to which viewers raised on U.S. studio apartment animation will be accustomed, though it does arguably honor the episodic origins of its literary source. The rewards here are ones of very well, subtle sensational detail, be it the shimmering visual image of falling snow on a forest floor, the convert, characterful nature of the animal sound effects, and the grand piano, graceful design and movement of the wolfdogs themselves — as expressive and adorable as any Disney critter .
Things get a little messier once humans enter the picture — which, one could argue, is a fundamental law of nature, though that doesn ’ deoxythymidine monophosphate remedy the stall momentum as White Fang is taken into homo captivity. In a heavily filleted precis of the novel ’ mho middle section, assorted twists of destiny and misfortune buffet him from one victor to another : first Grey Beaver ( Eddie Spears ), a baronial native american patriarch, then Beauty Smith, and finally, the desperate Weedon Scott and his kindly wife Maggie ( Rashida Jones, voicing a character devised by the screenwriters, presumably to offer some feminine contrast in a traditionally boysy affair ).

It all lopes along pleasantly enough through these chapters, so far without accumulating much urgency or personality. In the English-language interpretation reviewed, at least, dialogue and spokesperson work stove from merely serviceable to tin-eared, while the deletion of London ’ s final, California-set act — a move it copies from the 1991 film, though that was built around another character ’ s arch entirely — makes for a slightly race, wan-feeling denouement. After that largely charming open section, viewers will at least by this indicate amply feel the animal ’ south urge to return to nature : That finale canine sympathy is one thing this kindhearted, beautifully conceived but, well, slenderly toothless “ White Fang ” gets right throughout .

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