Monday, September 12, 2016

Movie Review: The Wild Life

The Wild Life
Directed by: Vincent Kesteloot & Ben Stassen.
Written by: Domonic Paris & Lee Christopher & Graham Welldon.
Starring: David Howard (Tuesday), Yuri Lowenthal (Crusoe), Marieve Herington (Kiki), Laila Berzins (Rosie), Joey Camen (Scrubby), Colin Metzger (Carmello), Sandy Fox (Epi), Jeff Doucette (Pango/Mel), Debi Tinsley (May), Doug Stone (Aynsley), Michael Sorich (Cecil), BJ Oakie (Rufus), Dennis O'Connor (Long John Silver), Kirk Thornton (Bosun), Kyle Hebert (Tom Cat).

Oh, the things we do for all children. I want my daughters to get into the movie going habit – a habit, I fear, that many in their generation may get out of. If they determine it’s not for them, then so be it, but I want them to know the joys that movies can bring. For this same reason, I am about to start showing my 5 year old classics – aided by Ty Burr’s excellent book “The Best Old Movies for Families” in the coming weeks. To get my daughter into the habit of going to the movies, I take her to see pretty much anything that is appropriate for her (it makes me more than a little bitter that we just out of a bad movie summer, that would have been amazing for a 7 year old with The Jungle Book, The BFG, Pete’s Dragon and Kubo and the Two Strings – all of which would have been just a little too much for my sensitive daughter – who made us leave The Secret Life of Pets because it had a snake). So, with as much fanfare as I could muster, we soldiered off to see The Wild Life this weekend – an animated version of Robinson Crusoe, originally made in France/Belgium, then redubbed into English for a fall release in North America (it’s not really a good sign they decided to release it after the first week of school) – hoping there would be enough parents like myself, desperate enough to take their kids to see any movie featuring talking animals.

The concept of the movie is that this is the story of Robinson Crusoe, but instead of being an autobiography of the man, it’s a story as told by Tuesday – a parrot on the island he is stranded on. There are not many animals on this island – and none that are part of a matched pair that may produce future generations, but let’s just forget about that. The villains in the film are a pair of cats – that were ratter’s on the ship Crusoe was on, who hate him because he (and his dog – trigger warning, don’t get attached to the dog) foiled their plan on a chicken dinner, and allegedly spend years seeking revenge – and eventually, some pirates, who show up and “rescue” Crusoe – although, perhaps being stranded is better than being a pirate.

The Wild Life is, to put it mildly, not a good movie. The animation isn’t bad per se, but it isn’t very memorable either – the character design doesn’t rise to the level of most modern CGI Saturday morning cartoon shows, let alone feature films. The best animated sequence is a chase one – where the gaggle of cats chases our hero animals down various slides and chutes, in and out of trees, etc. – which for a few minutes, is actually kind of thrilling. Nothing else in the film elicits that kind of joy. The writing of the movie matches the visuals – in that is workmanlike, and not a whole lot else. Crusoe is a little bit of a dim bulb – but lovably so, I suppose. Tuesday really is the main character – he narrates the story after all, and is the only one of the animals given much personality at all (although I’m not sure the desire to get off the island and see the world is much of a character trait). There are other instances that are just plain illogical – like how “no one” has ever come back from the furthermost island in what appears to be a chain that are very close together. Sure, I suppose, it could be too hard to swim – but there are two birds among these animals.

The movie really isn’t very funny or exciting. The pat message – be happy with the family you have, is predictable and dull. The characters aren’t really lovable or memorable, the humor is relatively lazy. The film fails so much to develop an emotional connection to its characters that a dog can be killed – and buried – and raise not a sniffle in me (nor any trauma in my daughter) In short, nothing in The Wild Life really passes muster. As we left the film, I asked my daughter what she thought of the film. She said she thought it was too long (for the record, its 93 minutes). Smart kid.

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