A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that The Wild Life is an animated adventure inspired by Daniel Defoe's classic novel Robinson Crusoe about a British castaway (in this version, Crusoe winds up on an island inhabited by talking animals). There's quite a lot of peril: storms, a shipwreck, fires, narrow escapes, etc. Other violent/intense scenes include the sad death of a supporting animal character and an extended fight between a horde of mean cats and Crusoe and his animal friends. Armed pirates shoot muskets and cannons and throw knives, and they also swig enough rum to look and act drunk. All of that said, the movie has a fast pace and a light tone overall, so most younger elementary schoolers and up will likely be able to handle it. And it does offer messages about teamwork, collaboration, and friendship.
What's the story?
THE WILD LIFE is based on the 18th-century novel Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe (and, in fact, the movie -- which was produced in Europe -- is called Robinson Crusoe everywhere but in the United States). In this version, the shipwrecked British map maker (voiced by Yuri Lowenthal) ends up on an island filled with animals that can speak to one another. There he meets a curious parrot named Mak (David Howard Thornton), who befriends Crusoe and his loyal dog, Aynsley (Doug Stone). Mak's island friends include sweet-but-suspicious kingfisher Kiki (Lindsay Torrance); Rosie (Laila Berzins), a perpetually hungry Tapir; Scrubby (Joey Camen), a half-blind old goat; clever chameleon Carmello (Colin Metzger); and others. Unfortunately for Crusoe and his new friends, a pair of conniving, vengeful cats also survived the shipwreck and is now making it their mission -- and that of their impending offspring -- to destroy Crusoe.
Is it any good?
Forgettable and bland, with only a couple of truly swashbuckling sequences, this animated adventure will amuse only the youngest moviegoers, but not most Pixar-spoiled older kids or adults. Although the storyline of The Wild Life is coherent and easy for even the youngest kids to understand, it's also boring and poorly executed, with some pretty big holes. (How did Mak and all of his friends end up on the island if there aren't others of their species there? What's the deal with the gold ring that pops up a couple of times, then disappears?) Yes, there are a couple of adventurous scenes -- like the big, climactic battle between Robinson/his animal squad and the army of vengeful cats -- but it's too little, too late.
There are so many options in family entertainment these days that, even with its faults, The Wild Life definitely doesn't rank among the worst -- but that doesn't mean it's worth the cost of admission. The creepy cats aren't particularly compelling villains, and Mak and his animal friends, while cute, aren't anywhere near as engaging as the characters in Zootopia or as funny as those in The Secret Life of Pets. For a movie night in with the under-7 set, this is a fine boredom cure, but The Wild Life isn't likely to entertain older kids -- and certainly not parents.
Talk to your kids about ...
Why do you think stories with talking animals are so popular? What are some of your favorites?
For those familiar with the original Robinson Crusoe story -- what do you think of this version? How did the filmmakers change it to be more appealing to kids?
- In theaters: September 9, 2016
- On DVD or streaming: November 29, 2016
- Cast: Yuri Lowenthal, David Howard Thornton, Marieve Herington
- Directors: Vincent Kesteloot, Ben Stassen
- Studio: Lionsgate
- Genre: Family and Kids
- Topics: Friendship, Wild animals
- Run time: 90 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG
- MPAA explanation: mild action/peril and some rude humor
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.