A riff on Daniel Defoe’s classic tale of survival “Robinson Crusoe,” a new animated film, “The Wild Life,” tells the story from a different point of view. Instead of the human perspective this 3D action adventure tells the tale from the point of view of the animals who play host to their ship wrecked visitor.
The film’s narrator is a bright red parrot named Mak (voice of David Howard). He let’s us know that life B.C.—Before Crusoe—was boring. His little island is a paradise but everyday was essentially the same until the shipwreck. When the dorky Crusoe (Matthias Schweighöfer) washes up on shore it changes everything for the chatty Mak, a tapir named Rosie (Ilka Bessin), Kiki the kingfisher (Melanie Hinze) and all their friends. “The New World was finally here,” says Mak,” and I had no Idea if I was ready for it or not.” After a rocky start—at the first the animals think the man is a sea monster—they becomes friends, bonded in their efforts to save their home from an invasion by some savage felines.
No animals were harmed during the filming of this movie, it’s an animated film after all, but there is some cruelty to the audience. If Mak found life on the island boring I wonder what he might have thought about this movie. The animation will entertain the eye of the six-and-under set but lacklustre characters and story may not grab their attention. There are some good messages here about the benefits of co-operation and loyalty but the story feels padded with needless action and, worse, pointless exposition. This is the kind of movie where characters helpfully describe everything you’ve just seen, treating kids like they are too stupid to process the action on the screen for themselves.
As for the characters, there isn’t much to say. They are standard direct-to-DVD animal cuties with nothing much to differentiate them from one another except their accents, which brings up another question. Closed off from the rest of civilization—they think Robinson Crusoe comes from another world—these creatures have grown up together and yet they all have different accents as if they hailed from different parts of the planet. It’s a small thing, but it’s also the kind of character detail more careful creators would have noticed.
“The Wild Life” isn’t a travesty, some small ones may find delight with the cute hedgehogs and company, but it is lazy. Like NWave Pictures’s previous pictures, “Fly Me to the Moon” and “The House of Magic,” “The Wild Life” lacks the narrative richness of similar work by Pixar and Dreamworks.