ROBINSON CRUSOE Directed by Ben Stassen and Vincent Kesteloot. Featuring Yuri Lowenthal, David Howard, Ron Allen, George Babbit, Laila Berzins, Debi Tinsley. Cert PG, gen release, 90mins
Tuesday (David Howard), a quirky parrot, dreams of a life of adventure beyond the remote tropical island that he shares with a chameleon, a tapir, and (for some reason) a goat.
A shipwreck ensures that the peppy bird does not have to go far. When an occasionally clumsy human named Robinson Crusoe (voiceover veteran Yuri Lowenthal) is washed ashore it falls to Tuesday to persuade his more cautious chums that they can all live happily together, because that is how the animal kingdom works.
There’s a problem: Crusoe wasn’t the only survivor: two mangy cats, including May, the feline world’s answer to Lady Macbeth (Debi Tinsley) are now prowling around the island, and May’s not above getting pregnant to gain a numerical advantage. In comparison, the Lady and the Tramp’s sneaky Siamese suddenly seem like, well, pussycats.
Rather tellingly, this film was released as The Wild Life in other territories. Its connection to Daniel Defoe’s novel is tenuous at best. That’s a pity. The book, first published as: The Life and Strange Surprising Adventures of Robinson Crusoe, of York, Mariner: Who lived Eight and Twenty Years, all alone in an un-inhabited Island on the Coast of America, near the Mouth of the Great River of Oroonoque; Having been cast on Shore by Shipwreck, wherein all
the Men perished but himself. With An Account how he was at last as strangely delivered by
Pirates, in which the titular castaway learns extreme survival skills, befriends a native and fights off cannibals is rather more eventful than this version, in which cartoon animals say things like: “To the max”.
Save a final swashbuckling sequence in which Crusoe and chums fend off pirates, there’s nothing to match, say, that spooky moment when the hero finds footprints in the sand.
There’s something off-colour, too, about adapting a novel that was once regarded as reportage (or a hoax by those who hadn’t quite grasped the idea of the novel) into another wacky animal escapade.
Still, the animation, though hardly sophisticated, is serviceable, the animal characters look to be carefully crafted and nobody dances to Sir Mix-A-Lot.
Crusoe: wild interpretation