Visually impressive even on video, White Fang uses Alaska’s very great outdoors to tell the feel-good story of a boy and his wolf. It’s based on Jack London’s novel, but tamed for family viewing: Though the characters include hungry wolves, a ferocious grizzly, and some low-down claim jumpers, director Randal Kleiser manages to spin his tale without spilling a drop of blood.
The movie is best early on, when the odyssey of an orphaned wolf cub intercuts with the adventures of a young prospector (Ethan Hawke). Filmed in pristine, wordless images reminiscent of The Bear, the wolf’s tale is the more compelling; the boy’s story, meanwhile, follows territory that seems a tad too familiar. Once boy and wolf unite, White Fang gets downright conventional, ending up as mainstream as a Lassie movie. Yet with true family films in such short supply, this one’s wholesomeness actually makes it special. Families seeking a video adventure to share together during the summer vacation season should surely welcome White Fang. B+