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Friday, September 9, 2016

Movie Review: #TheWildLife

The harmless The Wild Life is also exceeding boring.

Review by Matt Cummings

The French-Belgium animated feature The Wild Life is anything but that, a slow, often boring affair that both lacks a strong antagonist and is bereft of heroes with personalities above the temperature of oatmeal.

Essentially a version of Robinson Crusoe with talking animals, Life introduces us to the chatty parrot Tuesday and his posse of anthropomorphic animal friends who live on an isolated island. But when a violent storm wrecks the island, Tuesday and his friends awake to discover that a ship has crashed on the beach. When it's revealed that the only surviving passenger is none other than Robinson Crusoe, Tuesday is torn between siding with his friends' racial phobia about humans and his desire to seek adventure far off the island. Aligning himself with the fumbling Crusoe, the team soon realizes that pride of hungry and violent cats has also survived and want to take control of the island. As the two sides battle, Crusoe learns the meaning of courage and friendship while his new friends realize that humans aren't so bad after all.

The Wild Life is perhaps the most uninspiring animated film since Norm of the North, a misshapen and oddball affair that never hits its emotional stride and certainly keeps its characters as bland as possible. Everyone here is a caricature, never elevating themselves beyond the typical movie tropes, with the good guys always good and the bad ones remaining bad (and downright ugly, which will assuredly scare the little ones). Vocal performances are decent, but without top-tier talent to drive interest, we also get a lack of depth to their voices. It's a lot like what's happened at DC Animated, with each film declining in quality due entirely to the poor voice acting.

If The Wild Life does offer something, it's the impressive animation. I'm not sure that's going to be enough to attract audiences, because so much of this film is such a bore. There's never a sense of danger, with our heroes navigating a 15-minute onslaught by the evil cats and their babies (even though they're all stranded on a island filled with nothing but bugs) but never feeling like it meant anything. Crusoe will still be stranded, the cats will still be there, and Tuesday will continue to dream of a world he'll never see. By the time we get to the end, the island has luckily returned to normal, as our cats are now on a pirate ship and two gentle mice have been transported to the island courtesy of Tuesday. It's a definite social commentary that might even remind some of presidential candidate Donald Trump's wall-building scheme. Whether the connection is real or not, the movie isn't worth your time to debate.

The Wild Life proves that stellar animation still needs a great script and emotive voices to become a hit. All this one can do is boast that it's perfect Saturday cable escape but t's nowhere near ready for the big screen. We can say that about so many movies from this summer - just throw anyone onto the pile.

The Wild Life is rated PG for mild action/peril and some rude humor and has a runtime of 90 minutes.

Discuss this review with fellow SJF fans on Facebook. On Twitter, follow us at @SandwichJohnFilms, and follow author Matt Cummings at @mfc90125.

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