Jack London may not be spinning in his grave, but he's probably twitching a little. In this insipid sequel, a cuddly Disney version of London's wolf-dog hero saves an Indian tribe from starvation and plays matchmaker between his master and an Indian princess.
In a prologue, Jack from the first film (Ethan Hawke, in an unbilled cameo) writes a letter to his gold mining partner, Henry Casey (Scott Bairstow). Jack explains that he's remaining in San Francisco to help friends rebuild their hotel following the 1906 earthquake. In the Alaska wilderness,
Henry sets out from camp with White Fang, intending to deposit a cache of gold dust in town. At the same time, Lily (Charmaine Craig), a Haida Indian princess, is searching for the legendary White Wolf, which is said to be able to assume any form, animal or human. Her trek is necessary because the
caribou have failed to return for the spring, and only the White Wolf can save the tribe from starvation by leading the caribou back.
Man, woman, and dog cross paths after Henry's boat capsizes in the rapids. Lily, who thinks Fang is the White Wolf, fishes Henry out and nurses him back to health. Despite some initial reluctance, Henry decides to help the Haida, not only to repay Lily's kindness, but also because he's fallen in
love with her. With the help of Fang, Lily, and Lily's cousin Peter (Anthony Michael Ruivivar), Henry sets out to find the lost caribou. Along the way, they fight greedy gold miners led by Leland Drury (Alfred Molina) and Heath (Geoffrey Lewis); hoping to starve the Haida off their land, they've
walled off a mountain pass through which the caribou normally migrate. The battle costs Peter his life, but Henry blows up the wall using some of the miners' own dynamite. Back at the village, Lily returns Henry's gold, which she found on a riverbank. Heartbroken that his love for Lily remains
unrequited, Henry prepares to leave. But at the last second Lily decides she loves him and asks him to stay. Fang settles down with his own white wolf, with whom he produces a litter of puppies.
If anything, London's rough, tough Northwest is even more sanitized in FANG 2 than it was in the original. Gone are the dogfights, soft-hearted con men, and golden-hearted dance hall gals of the first film. Jack London is just another name on the credits, somewhere between the key grip and the
assistant to the assistant producer, either of whom had more to do with what's on the screen than the novelist. Even the Indians are domesticated--they could be your next-door neighbors, except for Craig, who has the lithe dancer's build and knockout looks of a world-class supermodel. Bairstow is
even more bland than Hawke was in Part One, but at least the villains are entertaining. Molina brings a dark, brooding malignancy that gooses the energy level whenever he's around, and Lewis has made a career out of playing seedy, spineless losers like his character here.
Still, if adults will have trouble staying awake, kids may find WHITE FANG 2 a reasonably entertaining adventure. Disney seems to have pitched the film more to girls than boys: Bairstow would qualify as a hunk (of the non-threatening teen-idol variety), and if Fang isn't quite Benji, he still
has more in common with the stuffed cuddle dolls that fill little girls' bedrooms than anything London ever envisioned. Kid appeal notwithstanding, however, the fluffy WHITE FANG 2 will leave Jack London fans foaming at the mouth. (Violence.)
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- Released: 1994
- Rating: NR
- Review: Jack London may not be spinning in his grave, but he's probably twitching a little. In this insipid sequel, a cuddly Disney version of London's wolf-dog hero saves an Indian tribe from starvation and plays matchmaker between his master and an Indian prince… (more)