“The Wild Life” is the American release of the French/Belgian animated adventure, “Robinson Crusoe.” It’s bland. It’s benign. It’s a series of pinhole-camera chases inoffensively strung together.
English-dubbed and PG-scrubbed, “Wild” tells the story of Daniel Defoe’s resourceful castaway through the eyes of his cute animal posse on a non-scary and bountiful island. Crusoe’s not the hero; that mantle falls to a Macaw the human names “Tuesday.”
No “Friday,” no cannibals, no aggressive argument for religious conversion, no mention of Crusoe-as-slaver (he’s a nice young man longing to see the world). The only significant novel ingredients left in the film stew are the plucky human, a dog, two cats and the parrot.
But just as the film’s target audience is unlikely to have read the Defoe novel, what’s more important than what is missing is what is there. In the case of “Wild Life,” unfortunately, that’s not a lot.
The cannibals are replaced as antagonists by the cats, who, though stranded for multiple breeding cycles with only bugs to eat, somehow spawn an army of athletic and psychopathic felines. Apart from the bad cats, it’s pretty much fun and games in Crusoe and friends’ luxury treehouse tower.
As much as is lost in translation from page to unthreatening kids’ cartoon (a transition that is 100 percent fine in concept), more seems lost in translation from French to English. The dialogue is so flavorless as to appear to have been generated by Google Translate. The animals’ personalities seem randomly chosen, with cliched accents, and there isn’t much for the talented voice cast to work with.
Though “Wild Life” could have used some of the ingenuity of the book’s protagonist, it’s harmless and somewhat amusing to its target demo. It exists in the kids-only zone where parents go to pay for their sins or, hopefully, get a nap.
The Wild Life
Rated: PG for mild action/peril, some rude humor. Voices: Yuri Lowenthal and David Howard. Directors: Vincent Kesteloot and Ben Stassen. Running time: 90 minutes. Theaters: Edwards 21 (2D, 3D), Edwards 14 (2D, 3D), Majestic 18 (2D, 3D), Village Cinema.