“The Wild Life” is a 3D computer-animated adventure that loosely tells the classic story of Robinson Crusoe, but from the perspective of animals on a deserted island. This is a family-friendly movie for children ages 3 to 10, and is best suited for youngsters who enjoy outdoor activities. It’s a good match for kids involved in Boy Scouts or Girl Scouts, as it depicts a man who learns to survive on an abandoned island without electricity and other modern conveniences.

In case you’re wondering, the movie is nothing like “Zootopia,” “Finding Dory,” or “Secret Life of Pets” which offers something for adults and children alike.  This is strictly a children’s film, and it’s aimed at preschoolers and early elementary.

“The Wild Life” is basically a kid-friendly version of the classic book by Daniel Defoe. Adults will most likely be bored with the lackluster plot, and how almost everything is gone that identifies the film as an adaptation. For example, there are no encounters with cannibals. The original story features Crusoe saving the life of a cannibal, naming him Friday, and teaching how to speak English. “The Wild Life” contains none of that.

This movie is rated PG, but it very easily could have been rated G. It’s is a mild-mannered story with very little objectionable material, except a few perilous scenes involving a shipwreck, and pirates on the high seas. There’s a narrator who jumps in occasionally with a warning, “Don’t try this at home!” and he also summarizes the plot, “in case you missed it...” so that youngsters can understand the storyline.  Yes, the narration is annoying, but it has its place. I attended an advance screening with a 4-year-old girl and her parents. The narrator breaks down the story down so that little ones can understand.

The film’s animation is fairly good, comparable with Pixar or Disney. It’s from the Belgian animation studio, NWave Pictures, who previously released “Fly Me To The Moon,” which depicts the Apollo 11 mission from the perspective of houseflies.
The plot is about Robinson Crusoe (Yuri Lowenthal) living on a pirate ship. He is different from the other pirates. Crusoe doesn’t like the captain and his shipmates are bullies.  Crusoe is an introverted, book reading kind of guy, and (to make things funny) he suffers from nausea and sick sickness.  Crusoe ends up shipwrecked on a Pacific island, and is the sole survivor. Crusoe’s companions are animals—a parrot named Tuesday, a ditzy goat named Scrubby, and his dog Aynsley.

Alone on the island, Crusoe uses the remains of the ship to build a giant treehouse and beacon to attract passing ships.  Unbeknownst to everyone, two starving cats from the pirate ship have survived the shipwreck. The cats are determined to take control of the island and make Crusoe pay for the years of bad treatment they endured on the pirate ship.  Crusoe builds a giant water irrigation system, complete with tubing, tunnels, twists and turns. When the starving cats attempt to hunt the island birds, it becomes a huge chase. It’s the cats versus Crusoe and his animal friends, and the island’s water irrigation system transforms into a waterslide.

While the movie doesn’t contain cannibalism like the book does, the conflict with the hungry cats is a feeble kid’s version of that conflict. Without giving too much away, the end-credits summarize another two hours’ worth of plot with still frame pictures and music.

Yes, kids watching will appreciate the happy ending, although adults will groan about it being tacked on at the end.

This film debuted in Europe this past February, March and April, and it opens in American theaters this weekend. Overseas, the movie is called “Robinson Crusoe,” but in America it is re-titled as “The Wild Life.”

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