Director: Vincent Kesteloot and Ben Stassen
Cast: Ilka Bessin, Dieter Hallervorden and Matthias Schweighofer
Running Time: 90 minutes
Release Date: May 6th
Giving that the main protagonists in Robinson Crusoe, the latest feature from Belgian animated studio nWave, are a group of mismatched anamorphic animals, perhaps its alternative title, The Wild Life under which it has been released in several territories including an upcoming September release in the United States would have been more reprehensive. After all while it follows the basic premise of the classic novel, in that a young sailor called Robinson Crusoe finds himself shipwrecked on a small island, the primary focus is on a parrot with big dreams and his group of friends whose lives have been disrupted by the arrival of this strange human. This is no bad thing, particularly given the original novel’s general pro-imperialism outlook not to mention Crusoe’s journey working on an Atlantic slave ship, but does this different point of view help add a bit of colour to an already familiar tale?
As a group of diverse animals, including a goat, kingfisher bird, and tapir among others, live a life on a secluded island that they describe as “paradise”, a parrot called Mark is feeling bored by all this tranquillity. He yearns to see more of the world outside the island, a world none of the other animals believe even exist. One day however, a young man and his dog find themselves shipwrecked just off the island and for Mark, this is his biggest opportunity to live his dreams. For his friends, these new arrivals pose a great danger; though unbeknownst to them the real danger lies elsewhere in the shipwreck, in the form of two cats that are hell bent on taking revenge on Crusoe and his dog and to gain control over the island.
While Robinson Crusoe has some nice animation and jogs along nicely for its 90 minute running time, unfortunately there is a lack of chemistry with its characterisation that lets it down. This is not to say that the characters themselves are bad, they are all quite likeable and pleasant enough company to spend time with, but their relationship with one another lacks a certain kind of spark to maintain that much interest in their plight.
These problems are not helped by the fact that much of the comedy falls flat. There are some amusing moments throughout, the animals’ first sightings of Crusoe and their general bewilderment at his appearance (“He’s taking off his skin!” is one reaction to seeing Crusoe removing his jacket) and some decent slapstick moments, mainly involving the gangly Crusoe’s attempt to make shelter on the island and the climatic battle between Crusoe and the animals against the villainous cats and their giant litter, but all it offers is mild chuckles at best.
Robinson Crusoe has enough vibrant and colourful animation that along with its gentle, though not particularly hilarious, humour, that it ends up as pleasant and likeable – though not particularly memorable. It’s not that good, though not that bad either. It’s just Robinson Crusoe-so.