Charles Solomon Reviews “The Wild Life” – Animation Scoop

Charles Solomon Reviews “The Wild Life”

Although 2016 brought us Norm of the North and Ratchet and Clank, The Wild Life is the odds-on favorite for the Worst Animated Film of the Year trophy. Despite the title, it’s an uninspired, overly tame movie that would once would have been consigned to the direct-to-video bin.

The story, credited to Lee Christopher, Domonic Paris and Graham Welldon uses a few fragments of DeFoe’s “Robinson Crusoe” in a rambling tale that supposedly extols the virtues of friendship.

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Crusoe (Yuri Lowenthal) is a bumbling geographer who gets shipwrecked on a remote flyspeck of an island. It’s not clear where this adventure is supposed to be unfolding (the original Crusoe was marooned in the Caribbean): the islet is inhabited by animals from various continents, including a Pangolin, a Chameleon, an Echidna, a Macaw, a domestic goat, et al. The film is narrated by the Macaw (David Howard Thornton), whom Crusoe dubs “Tuesday,” the worst motorbeak since Alex in Walking with Dinosaurs. Although Tuesday and the other characters natter incessantly, none of them manages to say anything worth listening to.

As he befriends the animals, the inept Crusoe somehow builds an elaborate tree house, a beacon tower and an irrigation system. But everything is menaced by two nasty ship’s cats and their brood of kittens–a couple of undernourished cats are somehow a threat to a full-grown goat or human. The climax of the film is a seemingly endless set piece of the friendly beasts sliding down bamboo flumes that collapse under the pursuing cats. Vincent Kesteloot and Ben Stassen direct the sequence with too little energy for it to be exciting and timing too leaden for it to be funny.

Crusoe is eventually rescued by pirates, whom he finds so nasty, he flees back to the island and his animals chums. But over the credits, the viewer sees a pretty girl and a white parrot arrive, suggesting a sequel may already be in the works. Animation fans can only hope rising sea levels swamp the studio before it’s completed.

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The Wild Life proves that even a low-budget (reportedly $13 million) CG film can boast convincing rendering: the feathers, rocks, rope and water all look right. But the lighting and design sense needed to make them visually interesting is sorely lacking. The generic-looking Crusoe could be the long-lost brother of Flint Lockwood in the Meatballs films, and the animation of the character is formulaic and unconvincing.

Perhaps the most damning thing about Wild Life is that’s so feeble, it can’t even annoy the hapless viewer. It just feels unnecessary.

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Charles Solomon

Charles Solomon

Internationally known animation historian and critic, Charles Solomon has written over 15 books books including Enchanted Drawings: The History Of Animation, The Art of Disney's Frozen, and The Making of Peanuts Animation. Solomon's "The Art of Toy Story 3" will be published by Chronicle this spring.
Charles Solomon
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  • MegaChaosGelee

    As a European, I apologize for this concoction. From Belgian-French animation co-productions, we are normally used to something much better. But this movie led to some heavy eye rolling already when I saw the trailers in cinema. Too cheap, without any heart, soul and originality. Either do it right and with a clear artistic vision, or don’t try it at all. Robinson Crusoe (aka The Wild Life in North America) seems like churned out from the substandard assembly belt as a mere product, only the youngest of the youngest in the audience may get any entertainment out of it.

  • Cameron Ward

    the worst? No I disagree. Norm of the North is worse in about every single way. The Wild Life is definitely in my top 5 worst though. If I didn’t see Bling or Underdogs, then I would say its number two, but those two are worse…

  • Willie Okendo

    That’s his opinion, he thinks it’s worse than Norm of the North since it’s completely unnecessary for an animated film.

    But I will agree with you it’s not close to being as bad as Norm, since Norm’s animation is far worse, the jokes are really bad, and the characters themselves are idiots and jerks (especially the butt joking Norm himself).

  • Cameron Ward

    Oh yeah I get why he said it’s the worst, and it’s incredibly bad (it’s going to hit store shelves in November so even Lionsgate knew it was bad), but i feel like its animation and how it mostly stays away from bad children film jokes as much as possible…granted it leaves us with incredibly one note and stupid characters, but still

  • gamerscul9870

    Flint Lockwood is a real character unlike Norm, Cpt. Qwark from Rachet and Clank, Ice Age characters (not from the first or maybe even the second film, any foodfight characters, etc.