White Fang 2: Myth of the White Wolf

Theatrical Release: April 15, 1994 / Running Time: 106 Minutes / Rating: PG

Director: Ken Olin

Cast: Scott Bairstow (Henry Casey), Charmaine Craig (Lily Joseph), Al Harrington (Moses Joseph), Alfred Molina (Rev. Leland Drury), Geoffrey Lewis (Heath)

 

Walt Disney the man himself was not big on the idea of sequels. The studio that possesses Walt's name, on the other hand, Walt Disney Pictures, is a firm believer in sequels, a policy which clashes with the school of thought the man himself had on sequels. The studio likes to capitalize on things that are successful. So, when 1991's White Fang was a critical and financial success, it was soon after determined to make a White Fang 2.

Like every sequel Disney makes, White Fang 2 is inferior to the original. What makes it inferior is not that it is retreading the same concept, mind you, because WF2 actually moves away from the ideas and focus of the original movie (which itself strayed away from the original Jack London novel it was based on). White Fang 2 capitalizes on the wolf's heroic qualities seen from the ending moments of the original to carry an entire film. While not by itself, but that is essentially the element from the first that is re-used here.

We're still in Alaska, and it's still the same time period, but since the star of the original Ethan Hawke since moved on to bigger and better things (like Reality Bites), the sequel's story focuses on Jack's friend Henry Casey, who he has left in charge of his cabin and gold-mining operations. Ethan does appear in the opening sequence, as he writes a letter from the San Fransisco hotel that he is now working on with Alex. It is this one brief appearance at the opening that is probably the best part about White Fang 2. The new star of the show is Scott Bairstow (this was his first major role, before he moved onto bigger and undoubtedly better things like Wild America and a recurring role on "Party of Five") and his adequate performance is the sole beacon of hope in this mess of a film.


Title screen for the most beloved sequel since More American Graffiti!

My dislike of this film could allow me to go on for a long time, but I'll spare you of that. Suffice it to say, that any elements of the original that worked (the drama, coming-of-age element, the Alaska setting as character) do not work here, and they fail with miserable results. In the sequel, the wolf is more of a predecessor to Air Bud than a character from a Jack London novel. The wolf knows when Henry is in trouble and saves him time again, because... well, he's a smart wolf.

Henry and White Fang get washed up while sailing to bring their gold to town (because THAT is surely the best way to transport a big sack of gold...sailing on a little boat over white water rapids) and he is found by Lilly, a girl from the nearby Indian tribe who has been sent out to find the one who will bring the caribou back to the starving tribe. At first, Henry finds the Indian people and their beliefs strange and does not want any part of them, but by being open-minded, Henry will be a hero for these people in need. Ugh. These scenes with their mysticism propaganda and an assortion of some of the worst acting from the "Indian-looking" characters. (Maybe the filmmakers didn't look hard enough for talent.)

The story is predictable and we are supposed to see the usefulness and true power to the Native American's people way of life and the visions that come to them in dreams. What this has to do with anything in the original movie....I don't know. Ah yes, they're in Alaska and there's that wolf....and this is Jack...'s friend. Throw an evil "minister", a bad actor who turns into a raven, and a sappy forced romance into the mix, and you have White Fang 2, which would go on the page of "Sequels that shouldn't have been made" had anyone actually seen this one. Cliched with cartoon-esque characters and poor acting abound, this is not a very good film.

When I wrote this (a long time ago), to make the review a tiny bit more interesting for both writer and reader, I allowed my own 'Mr. Subliminal' to make comments from time-to-time in parentheses a la the Kevin Nealon character from Saturday Night Live. Consider yourself warned.

 

DVD Details

1.85:1 anamorphic Widescreen
Dolby Digital 5.1 (English),
Subtitles: English, French, Spanish
Closed Captioned
Release Date: April 23, 2002
Single-sided, single-layered disc (DVD-5)
Suggested Retail Price: $14.99
White Keepcase

 

VIDEO AND AUDIO
What is ironic (and a kick in the pants) to fans of the original White Fang is that White Fang 2 is presented in anamorphic widescreen. Why is that bad, you ask? It's not, of course. But it is ironic, considering on the same day this was released, the original came out in Pan & Scan only, and with a horrible overall transfer. I suppose Disney figured that a good (decent, anyway) movie deserves a bad DVD and a horrible movie deserves a good DVD (some great extras on this good DVD!. I can't figure out the logic (original movie was a rehash of the LD transfer) behind the decision-making (monkeys have taken over the department). But the video transfer is overall pleasing and the 16:9 enhancement allows the film's outside locations (all a sound stage) to be seen in all their glory. Depth and colors are without problem and the video looks worlds better than the original's transfer does. While it lacks the crystal-clarity and oomph that new films possess on DVD, the DVD presentation are adequate and not something to complain about.

The audio is a Dolby Digital 5.1 track and it doesn't have too much kick, but it is clear and not very problematic. It does seem about as lifeless as this movie, but fortunately this 5.1 track isn't the thing to blame regarding teaching moral lessons to the braindead about accepting beliefs of others. However, you will hear Albert Molina as an evil priest if you leave this 5.1 Track on, so there's something negative.

 

EXTRAS
Nothing, not even a trailer. Most of these catalogue titles have received the same feature-less treatment, and White Fang 2 is no different. After five years of dilly-dallying catalogue releases in the DVD format, Disney found itself churning out its unavailable live-action movies in a ruthless fashion to spare no expense, resulting in disappointing feature-less discs.

 

CLOSING THOUGHTS
White Fang 2 is an utter disappointment of a sequel to the far more enjoyable original (anything would be). Kids and adults are bound to be bored or not interested alike. If on the off-chance you actually liked this movie (time for a CAT scan), then this DVD's video and audio quality are up to snuff so that you can enjoy repeated viewings (self-torture) of this film.

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