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Parents' Guide to

Swiss Family Robinson

By Kat Halstead, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 8+

Old-fashioned family adventure has some threat, stereotypes.

Movie NR 1940 93 minutes
Swiss Family Robinson Poster Image

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Made two decades before the beloved 1960s Disney adaptation, starring John Mills and Dorothy McGuire, this is an enjoyable retelling of the classic story. That said, this black and white 1940 version of Swiss Family Robinson lacks the energy and joy found in its successor. The performances are all solid. Mitchell holds the film together as the well-meaning patriarch of the family. While three-year-old Bobbie Quillan is a surprising standout as the youngest member of the Robinson clan.

Though the special effects were incredibly limited in the early '40s compared to the CGI of today, the storm scene at sea is impressively handled, as is the second onslaught that topples the famous tree house from its perch. The characters' reactions, however, are underplayed to the point of complacency, which takes away from any sense of realism or true danger. As in the '60s version, the tree house itself is ridiculously and gloriously high-spec -- with a full piano no less. This lends the film a storybook feel that is built upon by whimsical scenes such as a child riding an ostrich and a gigantic spider's web that wouldn't look out of place in Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark. Visually impressive for its time, this adaptation still proves reliable family entertainment, but is lacking the flair that might have made it a classic.

Movie Details

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