If you’re looking for a animated vanilla classic that’s unlikely to offend anyone, The Wild Life is the movie of your water cracker dreams. You may be confused because this movie used to be called Robinson Crusoe, based on the book by Daniel Defoe. In fact it’s called Robinson Crusoe in every other region where it’s been released except Canada, so we’ll just blame the Canadians.
Mak (David Howard Thornton, Nightwing: Escalation (2011)) is a parrot who dreams of life anywhere but on his island paradise. He has everything- friends, food, gorgeous scenery, zero predators – but he’s bored. He hoards tiny treasures in his nest be believes comes from “The Outside World.” He wants to travel but there isn’t anything nearby. He’s stuck with his dreams and less than supportive friends.
Speaking of his friends, there’s a kingfisher named Kiki (Marieve Herington, Ever After High (2013)) who’s the definition of a wet blanket and a Tapir named Rosie (Laila Berzins) who will make a fine roast one day. Scottish goat named Scrubby (Joey Camen) as well as a indeterminately-accented chameleon named Carmello (Colin Metzger) create a pattern. There are other animals too, but you see my point. Mak wants confirmation that there are other lands outside of his little Island. The animals speaking with accents making up the only other inhabitants of this island don’t settle that for him. Those same accents also don’t convince his friends that maybe they came from elsewhere. The south side of the island isn’t far enough away to create a dialect shift of that magnitude.
It’s never discussed, likely due to short term memory loss born from a steady diet of fermented fruit and grains.
After a bad storm, a battered ship lands on the beach and with it, strangers. Mak is curious and wants to explore, while Wet Blanket Kiki is positive everyone will die. Crusoe (Yuri Lowenthal, RWBY (2012)) and his dog Anysley (Doug Stone) make a home on the beach. Mak decides whether or not he’ll leave the island to go adventuring with them. This causes major strife among the friends. How dare he follow his dreams, right?
Meanwhile, there is a pair of nasty cats, Mel and May (Jeff Douchette and Debi Tinsley), also marooned on the island. As all of the other island inhabitants are main characters they have to live off insects and it makes them grouchy. For me this is where the movie took a left.
Crusoe builds not only a treehouse, but an indoor plumbing system. Mak, now renamed Tuesday, is saddled with some of the most simple-minded friends ever in the history of companionship. Kiki manages to complain about everything, like how great they have it. The other animals generally get in the way. The feral felines don’t fish and live off insects. Still, they manage to have a litter of kittens despite hating each other.
It’s a mess.
This is a French-Belgium picture, so I’m willing to believe that maybe something was lost in translation. Maybe this movie was for smaller kids who don’t care about things like migration patterns or practical engineering knowledge. The book had cannibals as an element of danger, but here they’re switched out for cats. Not quite the same level of peril. The movie runs long for little kids, like 90-minutes long, like 25 minutes longer than necessary for a movie of such little depth. I got squirmy. There a few fun action sequences, but overall you think Mak would be better off anywhere else. Why stay in a place where aspirations are ridiculed?
I didn’t hate The Wild Life, but I certainly won’t see it again. Too bland, too broad, and too dream crushing.
The Wild Life is rated PG for characters in danger, 1 death, and the horrifying realization that cats who hate each other had enough sex to produce offspring.