Robinson Crusoe (recently released with little impact in the US under the impossibly-bland title The Wild Life) is a Belgian/French computer animated 3D feature film based - loosely - on the classic shipwreck adventure yarn by Daniel Defoe. Therein lies the problem. Pixar and Dreamworks have raised the animation bar so high in a string of titles we’ve all got on our DVD/Blu Ray shelves regardless of our age, that it’s very hard for any other more anonymous animation studio to even reach it much less surpass it. So it is with Robinson Crusoe, a colourful but fatally-bland concoction which tells the story of Crusoe from the perspective of the animals (the wild life, you see) on the island on which he pitches up when he’s shipwrecked with his dog following a storm.
What’s become clear over the years is that Pixar and Co. spend as long honing their scripts, refining their characters, telling a good story, as they do crafting their immaculate animation. Robinson Crusoe demonstrates no such lightness of touch. To give credit where it’s due, the animation here is really quite extraordinary; colours are rich and vivid, the level of detail is hugely impressive. Storm sequences look genuinely wet and in all honesty there’s more fun to be had marvelling at the intricacies of the animation than the story itself, which rarely splutters into life and abjectly fails to ignite that magic spark which Pixar routinely build into their projects. Robinson Crusoe is scuppered by a flat script full of by-the-numbers characters and displaying a marked lack of real wit or visual invention. Crusoe himself is a bland do-gooder, the various animals on the island are, for a 3D film, worryingly two-dimensional. Two shipwrecked cats and their offspring are the villains of the piece and they really don’t cut the mustard, prowling around on an adjoining island bearing a grudge against Crusoe and his friends and terrorising them just for the Hell of it. But most crucially, Robinson Crusoe just isn’t funny. There are no real jokes, no witty wordplay and certainly none of the subtle multi-layering we’ve come to expect from the frontline animation boys. This is thin, plodding stuff which offers little more than predictable slapstick, thinly-drawn characters and nothing in the way of exciting, vibrant incident.
Robinson Crusoe throws away its potential USP and fails to capitalise on its idea of telling its story through animal eyes and ears, and so ends up as the sort of film best enjoyed by undemanding five-year-olds who will be entranced by its fast pace, pretty colourful pictures and talking animals. It might keep the nippers quiet for an hour or so, but in the end Robinson Crusoe just about works as a place-holder until the kids are ready for the rather sharper and more sophisticated delights of Toy Story, Up, Inside Out and even the Shrek and Ice Age series.
Special Features: Two (brief) featurettes
ROBINSON CRUSOE / CERT: PG / DIRECTOR: VINCENT KESTELOOT, BEN STASSEN / SCREENPLAY: LEE CHSIRTOPHER, M. DOMONIC PARIS, BEN STASSEN, CAROLINE VAN ISEGHEM / STARRING: MATTHIAS SCHWEIGHOFER, KAYA YANAR, CINDY AUS MARZAHN / RELEASE DATE: SEPTEMBER 26TH