It will probably take you, say, six minutes to read this review. That is approximately 30 seconds longer than The Wild Life will stay in your memory after you leave the theater.
The brilliant idea behind The Wild Life, its “concept” (it has no screenplay credit, and for good reason), is to tell the story of Daniel Defoe’s The Adventures of Robinson Crusoe from the point of view of the animals that Crusoe encounters when he’s marooned on that desert island. The idea isn’t new; Walt Disney did it in 1950, telling the tale of Cinderella as seen through the eyes of the mice who get transformed into the horses for her pumpkin coach.
The difference is that what Disney gave us was, in fact, Cinderella, while what directors Ben Stassen and Vincent Kesteloot have thrown together isn’t Robinson Crusoe. It’s not much of anything, really. The model here isn’t Defoe or Disney, it’s Ice Age and Madagascar and Rio—disposable, forgettable, empty-calorie gummy bear movies that make a killing at the box office for one opening weekend simply because there are hundreds of millions of parents out there who can’t think of anything else to do with their kids on a Saturday afternoon.
So what have we this time? We’ve got a parrot named Mak who tells the story in flashback to a couple of rats on the pirate ship that rescues Crusoe. He tells them about life on the island before Crusoe came, where Mak lived with a kingfisher named Kiki, a tapir named Rosie, a goat named Scrubbers, a chameleon named Carmelo, a porcupine named Epi, and a God-only-knows-what named Pango. The animals love their lazy life, but Mak longs to see the great world beyond the horizon. When Crusoe shows up, Mak sees the human as his ticket out.
When the pirates show up sometime later (long enough for Crusoe to have grown a beard), they bring with them two evil cats who plot to take over the island.
The Wild Life isn’t terrible; the animation is slick, and for what it is, it’s passable enough. But “what it is” is the problem. This Belgian-French co-production, dubbed simultaneously into French, German and English (sometimes the characters seem to be speaking English and sometimes they don’t), is utterly, doggedly, defiantly undistinguished. You can’t even play spot-the-celebrity-voice because there aren’t any. Even on the Internet Movie Database, voices are credited several times. Take the voice Americans hear as Kiki the kingfisher, for example—is it Melanie Hinze, Lindsay Torrance (real name Marieve Herington) or Alexandra Jiménez? Does it matter? Does anyone besides their mothers care?
If the kids insist and you’ve got the money to burn … well, why not? Since you won’t remember, you can even go again next week and it’ll be new all over again.
If it’s still around.