Feb 24, 2020
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‘The Call of the Wild’ Is Heard at the Box Office

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The domestic box office was a race between two computer-generated creatures this weekend, as “Sonic the Hedgehog” and “The Call of the Wild” jockeyed for first place.

Paramount Pictures’s “Hedgehog,” an action-comedy with a blue, fur-covered digital protagonist, had an impressive opening last weekend, and it was expected to hold its lead. While the movie did top the box office this weekend — with an estimated $26.3 million in domestic sales Friday through Sunday — it was a closer contest than expected.

That was thanks to a surprisingly good showing from the second-place movie: “The Call of the Wild,” an adaptation of the Jack London novel that pairs a scruffy Harrison Ford with a digital Bernard-Scotch shepherd mix. Distributed by 20th Century Studios, the film opened to an estimated $24.8 million in domestic sales this weekend. That figure is above expectations (prerelease projections had placed it in the teens), though because of the movie’s reported $135 million budget, it has a long way to go to be profitable.

“The Call of the Wild,” directed by Chris Sanders, has a recognizable leading man in Ford, who plays the novel’s central human, a rugged outdoorsman. But like the novel, the movie is primarily the story of Buck, a California house dog that finds its way into the wild. This version’s fully digital canine received a fair amount of online mockery — though perhaps not as much as the digital title character of “Sonic the Hedgehog,” which was redesigned after audiences ridiculed its appearance in an early trailer.

In his review of “The Call of the Wild” for The New York Times, Ben Kenigsberg wrote that “pondering this interspecies communion — between a craggy star and a digital dog (based on a man playing a dog) — may prompt howls into an existential void.” But, he added, “as the basis for a family crowd-pleaser, the pairing is often irresistible.” Critical response was lukewarm; “The Call of the Wild” currently holds a 63 percent fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

[Read our critic’s review of “The Call of the Wild.”]

In third was “Birds of Prey” (Warner Bros.), a DC Comics superhero movie in its third weekend. It sold an estimated $7 million in tickets according to Comscore, which compiles box office data.

The only newcomer in the top five other than “The Call of the Wild” was “Brahms: The Boy II,” a poorly reviewed horror sequel distributed by STX. Its weak opening brought in an estimated $5.9 million in domestic sales, placing the movie in competition with Sony’s “Bad Boys for Life,” which is comparatively ancient (this was its sixth weekend in theaters) but also managed around $5.9 million. Final counts on Monday will determine which landed in fourth and which placed fifth.

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