Robinson Crusoe crashes into “The Wild Life”
Animated movies starring animals as the chief protagonists have been around for some time. Going back to Disney’s Bambi, and even earlier, studios have understood that animated movies with animals are a gold mine. These movies have also primarily been American productions, with the healthy dose of Japanese Anime with their share of animated animal films, so it comes as no surprise that other countries are looking to get their piece of the animated genre pie.
In a joint production from both France and Belgium comes this latest computer animated film The Wild Life, distributed in the US by Lionsgate, is basically the story of Robinson Crusoe, and his struggle to survive after being marooned on a tropical island.
It is here that any similarities to previous versions of this story stop, because this movie is primarily about the animals that live on the island, plus a few that accompanied Crusoe on the doomed sailing expedition. In past versions of this film the threat was primarily of a human nature, but with this film the threat comes entirely from some unsavory animals (cats to be precise) with a single agenda, and that is to eat.
As Crusoe struggles to survive and built shelter for himself he eventually befriends some of the native animals of the island, primarily the parrot Mack (who is renamed Tuesday compliments of Crusoe); Rosie, a very curvy tapir; Carmello, a very sage sounding chameleon; Pango the acrobatic pangolin; Epi, a high pitched talking echidna; Scrubby, a near-sighted goat; and Kiki, a very nervous and alarmist of a Kingfisher bird. Through Mack/Tuesday, who sort of serves as link between Crusoe and the other animals of the island, Crusoe is able to build a functioning habitat with running water, and all the food he could possibly want. It is here that the cats figure into the picture, a very wily pair named Mal, and his mate May. All they can think about is food, and they are willing to eat anything, or anyone, just to satisfy their appetite.
The TG Geeks are big fans of animated films. We have an enormous collection of Disney films that we enjoy watching again and again. Regarding The Wild Life, this is a film that doesn’t exactly fall into our “wheelhouse.” That’s not to say that this is necessarily a bad movie. There were very young children at our screening who loved this film and reacted quite enthusiastically to all of the slapstick gags and pratfalls that were prevalent throughout the movie, but even there this movie doesn’t completely play to that very young audience as there were a few scenes that did make us smile and chuckle, although the majority of gags were clearly aimed for a much younger demographic. Another positive aspect of this film is some of the animation. While perhaps not up to what most people would expect from a Pixar or DreamWorks animated film, there were some scenes that are the equivalent of being “single shot,” meaning long sequences that are completely uninterrupted, and most of them looked like they could be used as part of a theme park attraction.
While this film is primarily a joint production between France and Belgium, the original voice talent for this film appears to be German (based solely upon the listing for this film in IMDB). I bring this up because the voice talents for the American release are largely all unknown actors, and sadly it seemed that some of the voice direction played to what I can only call “stereotypes.” So how does one stereotype a voice role for an animal? When the voice type is primarily based on the size of the animal. For the large goat they went with an older sounding voice, but for both Kiki and Epi they chose very high pitched, almost squeaky voices, and from the start that came off as rather annoying. However, the one big positive surprise was the voice acting of Crusoe himself, as voiced by Yuri Lowenthal. He has an extensive resume with some live acting roles, but primarily serves as a voice actor. He has a very soothing voice that helped to make Crusoe an almost immediately likable character from the start. It was quite a shock for us to see Lowenthal’s name in the credits because he sounds like a dead ringer for Jaime Bell in The Adventures of Tintin. Hopefully this film will help break him out of the small video game and TV market and into something bigger because his voice acting was a true pleasure to listen to.
If you’re looking for an animated movie where the entire family can become emotionally invested for a shared enjoyable experience, then you are better off looking for a different movie to watch. However, if you want a movie that can entertain your young children without having to monitor them constantly, then The Wild Life may just be your cup of tea.
Special thanks go out to Fingerpaint Marketing for allowing us to attend the Press Screening of The Wild Life.
While we very much wanted to like The Wild Life, we must give this movie only 2 out of 5 stars.
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