Collin's been a movie critic since 2009. In real life he works in marketing and is also a novelist ("Good Riddance" published in Oct 2015).
As the ol’ saying goes, “Explain it to me like I’m a five-year-old.” And it’s a message that the Belgium-based nWave animation studio took to heart in The Wild Life. There’s precious little that anyone who’s graduated kindergarten will enjoy, including a non-sensical plot (and the word “plot” is used loosely there), goofy characters, cut-rate animation, and a complete absence of any big-name talent providing the voices.
Based paper-thinly on Robinson Crusoe, The Wild Life tells the story of Crusoe, a map-maker who washed up on the shore of a tiny deserted island after his boat split in half during a storm. The only living things on the island are a motley crew of indigenous animals, including parrot Mak, tapir Rosie, and Scrubby the goat. They’re wary of Crusoe at first, but eventually they get to know him, and together they all battle Mel and May, a pair of mangy stowaway cats.
No deep meaning, no clever dialogue, no nothing. The entire last half of the movie is a non-stop, Home Alone-esque battle between man and cat. It ends up feeling like an extended Wile E. Coyote/Road Runner cartoon, without the entertainment value.
Adults will not only be bored silly, they’ll have plenty of time to ruminate about how little the actual story makes. Mak, for example, has never been off his little island, so he has no idea what a ring is when he finds one on the beach, but when Crusoe comes to shore, he knows the thing that the man is carrying is a gun, and that he should steer clear of it. And when Crusoe names Mak “Tuesday” (don’t ask), the bird accepts it, because he knows how much people hate Mondays.
And I’m offering a handsome reward for anyone can explain to me how a parrot, a dog, some cats, a goat, and an echidna can all speak English and understand each other, but not a single one of them can talk to a human.
Screenwriters Lee Christopher, Domonic Paris, and Graham Weldon are clearly very content to just play to the preschool set. There’s very little in the way of comedy that’s even grin-worthy (for kids and adults), but there’s pratfalls a-plenty. And the interminable cat-fight finale is so lengthy and so frenzied that even a kid hopped up on Coke and Twizzlers would scream, “Uncle!”
The only element of The Wild Life that is worth a couple nickels is the 3D effects. Give nWave credit, they know how to make good use of the added dimension. Whether it’s a nifty little waterslide scene or just a cat throwing fruit at the screen, there’s plenty that directors Vincent Kesteloot and Ben Stassen tossed in to justify doling out the few extra bucks.
If you could only avoid paying the actual ticket price to get to it.
Worth the 3D glasses?
It's not worth much else, but The Wild Life does offer some snazzy 3D fun. Leaves fall, rain pours, and all manner of things get lobbed toward the audience. If you've resigned yourself to seeing this bit of throwaway muck, you may as well spring for the plastic specs.