Disney's 'Fang' lacks bite

January 18, 1991|By Stephen Hunter | Stephen Hunter,Sun Film Critic

'White Fang'

Starring Ethan Hawke.

Directed by Randal Kleiser.

Released by Disney.

Rated PG.

** 1/2 You know you're in Walt Disney's "White Fang" and not Jack London's in the first seven seconds when a pack of frantic wolves, lips curled like black waves, teeth dense as a thicket of bayonets, closes on a bunny and the strongest of them manages to get off with the prize which upon examination in close -up has been magically transmogrified into a generic fur sock, bloodless, boneless, shapeless and unobjectional.

And that's what director Randal Kleiser does to London's book, too.

What's left after the Disney pack and head animal Kleiser get done "improving" is a mildly interesting melodrama of the Yukon, long on picturesque vistas and animal photography and short on psychology or realism.

Aimed at a largely pre-teen audience, it is largely satisfactory for them, and I can testify that mine -- an animal-adorer of the female persuasion at the age of 11 -- loved it deeply.

Ethan Hawke plays a plucky lad who heads to the Far North in 1897 in search of gold; meanwhile, a wolf-pup, sprung from its homey lair by the death of its mother, is also set to wandering. The movie tracks the intertwined adventures of these two.

As I say, not bad. Not Jack London, not even of the Classix Comix variant, but the animal photography is spectacular.

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