Disney's 'White Fang' minimizes the ugliness and is a pleasure to watch


January 22, 1991|By Lou Cedrone

''White Fang,'' said to be ''the first full-length motion picture to be filmed entirely on location in Alaska,'' has a lot going for it, the locale, for one. It also includes some spectacular animal footage and several very engaging performances.

Another nice thing about it is that it doesn't give the villains too much screen time. They are disposed of in record time, and that's always a blessing. This sort of thing can become tiresome.

''White Fang,'' directed by Randall Kleiser, is based on the book written by Jack London. The principal character is a young adventurer who heads for Alaska, where he hopes to find the mine his father had worked before his death.

The boy, engagingly played by Ethan Hawke (''Dead Poets Society''), finds the mine with the help of a kindly prospector, played by Klaus Maria Brandauer, who is convincing enough to make us believe that this is a truly gentle man.

''White Fang'' has been released by Walt Disney Pictures, another subsidiary of the Disney factory. They created their Touchstone Pictures to release adult films without having them tarnish the Disney family image. Their Walt Disney Pictures will apparently be used to release films that are for the new nuclear family, the family that has been raised on television and cassettes and is ready to accept more adult material than the family units of say, 20 years ago.

''White Fang'' has its ugly moments, but it includes nothing children haven't seen on television, children whose parents who are not too particular about what their offspring watch. The plot has the young man adopt an animal that is half wolf and half dog. The animal, however, is stolen by Beauty (James Remar), who makes a fighter out of him. The dog-wolf becomes a participant in dog fights that are staged in enclosures ringed by bettors.

We see a number of these fights, but they are handled slo-mo, and it will probably be apparent to most children that these animals have been trained to look as though they are fighting but may actually be playing with each other.

''White Fang,'' which could be subtitled, ''A Boy and His Wolf,'' ends on a very pleasant note, and that's very nice. This is, all in all, a rather nice film that pleases both the eye and the heart.

''White Fang'' is showing at local theaters.

''White Fang''

** A young adventurer, looking for his father's gold mine in Alaska, befriends an animal that is half dog and half wolf.

CAST: Klaus Maria Brandauer, Ethan Hawke, Seymour Cassel, James Remar, Susan Hogan

DIRECTOR: Randal Kleiser

RATING: PG (violence)

RUNNING TIME: 110 minutes

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