THE WILD LIFE (ROBINSON CRUSOE) (Belgium 2015) ***
Directed by Vincent Kesteloot
Starring: Matthias Schweighöfer, Kaya Yanar, Ilka Bessin
Review by Gilbert Seah
ROBINSON CRUSOE is a 2015 Belgium animated feature shot originally in French and dubbed in English and released by Lionsgate in Canada under the different title of THE WILD LIFE. As the title implies, it is the story of Robinson Crusoe – the untold story as told by the animals of the island Crusoe gets shipwrecked on. Crusoe is depicted as a clumsy clot, aided by the animals of the island in gratitude for saving them from the mean cats.
The story is told in flashback by the parrot who gives the story his point of view. On a tiny isolated South Pacific Island, Mak, the parrot and his friends live the perfect life. Blue skies, beautiful turquoise water, and lots of delicious fruit and crunchy insects. But every day is the same and Mak is really bored. Convinced there is more than just water over the horizon, he dreams of leaving his little paradise and exploring the world. Then one day, after a violent tropical storm, they wake up to find a huge ship broken up on the beach.
Two strange creatures emerge from the bowels of the shipwreck: Robinson Crusoe and his dog Aynsley. Unbeknownst to everyone, two ferocious cats have also survived the storm. The rest of the film is Crusoe and animals surviving the invasion of the two cats who have now sprouted a litter of equally ferocious and ugly kittens.
THE WILD LIFE cannot compete with the superior animation of Pixar or Disney Studios. But given its limitations, the animation is still solid, with 3-dimensional figures (as compared to the 2-D old school) that are now a staple for animated films. The inventiveness like the maze of pipes in Crusoe’s house is a wonder and the chase around the plumbing is sheer delight.
The film suffers from not having a true villain. The scavenger cats make ugly villains, but having the pa and ma felines having a hungry litter only make them more sympathetic than evil. The disposal of Crusoe’s dog is sad and would scare kids. Apart form this, most of the action is harmless fun with no real terror, violence or hint of foul language.
The film’s humour is derived from animal slapstick, chases and dumb talk. Adults will find the humour childish but the kids should be having a field day. The film also contains a few catchy tunes, just enough not to bore the audience. The film also contains a message (seems to be a staple for all animated family films these days) which is that home is where you make it – as the parrot learns.
The European touch is evident throughout the film. For one, the animals on the island make up a strange bunch, not too well known animals as found in American animal films. Besides the common parrot, other lesser known animals that make the cast include a tapir, an echidna and a chameleon. The voices are provided by an European cast for the French version and Americans for the dubbed version.