The Wild Life

Posted on September 8, 2016 at 5:23 pm

Copyright 2016 Lionsgate
Copyright 2016 Lionsgate

The animation is quite good in “The Wild Life,” with exceptional use of space designed to make the best use of 3D and cleverly constructed mechanics. But the voice talent is poor, the characters are dull, and the story and script start out badly and go downhill from there.

It is inspired by but bears little relation to the classic shipwreck story Robinson Crusoe, by Daniel Defoe, memorably illustrated by the great N.C. Wyeth (father of Andrew). But in this version there is no Man Friday. Instead it is, for no particular reason, told as a flashback from the perspective of the animals on the island, including a pangolin, a hedgehog, a tapir, and a parrot named Mak, later dubbed “Tuesday” by Crusoe.

The movie begins with pirates seeing what they think is a signal flame on a remote island. The captain sends his men to check it out and bring back anything of value. They capture Crusoe, and Tuesday settles in with some friendly mice on the ship to tell them the story from the beginning.

We meet Crusoe and his dog Ainsley onboard La Luna. They are novices at sea travel and looked down upon by the seasoned sailors. Crusoe does a lot of looking down, too, at the ocean, as he barfs into it. Also on board are two scraggly cats with Cockney accents, the scheming May and henchman Mal (Debi Tinsley and Jeff Doucette). A storm destroys the ship and Crusoe and Ainsley are trapped when the sailors depart in the lifeboat. The ship crashes on the shore of a tiny uninhabited island. Well, uninhabited by humans. The animals live in a predator-free paradise, with daily luaus, and they are all very happy except for Mak the parrot, who dreams of finding something exciting and different.

Crusoe, Ainsley, and the splintered remains of the ship are thrilling for Mak but terrifying for the other animals. Eventually Crusoe gains Mak/Tuesday’s trust and the animals begin to make friends with him, helping him to build a treehouse complete with running freshwater. But May and Mal, briefly stuck on an adjacent rock and soon accompanied by a litter, are determined to return to the island and pretty much eat and/or destroy everything and everyone.

Illuminata had the same mix of exceptional animation technique and underwritten story in “Fly Me to the Moon.” I wrote in my review, “Unfortunately, the dull characters and weak story keep getting in the way of the gorgeously produced backgrounds.” My strong recommendation for their next film is that they try to find writers and performers as capable as their visual artists.

Parents should know that this film includes a scary shipwreck, mean cats, pirates, guns, and fire, characters drink alcohol and there is a sad offscreen death of a character.

Family discussion: Why is Mak the only one on the island who is curious about the rest of the world? Why did Mal do what May said? How can you tell the difference between a coincidence and a bad omen?

If you like this, try: “The Pirates! Band of Misfits” and “Shipwrecked”

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3D Action/Adventure Animation Fantasy Talking animals

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